The Army Futures Command Finds a Home in Austin, TX


In an earlier post on the Modern Battlespace, we took a look at the Army Futures Command and what it indicates for ongoing innovation in the Department of Defense. Much of the defense community has been eagerly awaiting the announcement of the location of the new headquarters and last month, we learned that it will be located in Austin, TX. Texas’ capital was selected over its final competitors: Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Raleigh-Durham, and Philadelphia.

In this latest news roundup, we’re sharing a few perspectives about the announcement and how the news was received. Here are a few industry articles covering the news:

Army Chooses Austin as Site for Futures Command Headquarters

David Vergun, reporting from the Army News Service, shared the news on the Department of Defense’s site, covering most of the details that were announced by Army Secretary Mark T. Esper and Army Undersecretary Ryan D. McCarthy in a news conference. The conference was held at the Pentagon on July 13, 2018.

McCarthy stated that the selection was a tough one to make, but Austin checked off all of their boxes including (but not limited to) academic STEM and research and development investment, quality of life, and density of industry and academic talent.

Vergun reported, “A six-member team is en route to Austin to begin establishing initial operating capability at Army Futures Command, McCarthy said. Within a year, full operating capability will be achieved, he said, with a headquarters staff of about 500.”

During the conference, McCarthy said Army Futures Command will focus on the development of the service’s six modernization priorities: improved long-range precision fires, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile and expeditionary Army network, air and missile defense capabilities and soldier lethality.

Read the whole article here.

Here’s what the Army wants out of its Futures Command HQ

Before the selection was made earlier this month, Ray Gronberg from The News & Observer shared an overview of exactly what the Army was looking for in an HQ location during the scouting process.

Gronberg wrote, “In his June 5 talk at the Brookings forum, Esper stressed that the Army wants a location close to academia and industry because a headquarters that has to ‘envision the future’ and then find solutions needs scientists, engineers and theorists ‘at our fingertips.’”

This talk from Esper looked past the actual location selection and more closely at the reasoning behind the development of the Futures Command in general. Due to the primitive nature of the adversary in the War on Terror, innovation has not truly been in the foreground, but Esper thinks it’s time for that to change. Weapon and vehicle improvements will be at the core of the research to be conducted at the Army Futures Command and an environment that is conducive to that research is crucial.

Read the whole story here.

Why the Army decided to put its new high-tech Futures Command in Texas

With all of the HQ location finalists being a generally good fit for the criteria discussed above, what made them pick Austin? In a recent article, Dan Lamothe at the Washington Post reported that in addition to the access to STEM-focused talent and quality of life, the state of Texas also offered other incentives which were not divulged during the official announcement.

However more light was shed on the situation later that evening according to Lamothe. “The University of Texas System’s Board of Regents voted to provide the Army with space in its high-rise building in downtown Austin,” he wrote. “Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Army officials appeared at the Austin Chamber of Commerce and praised the university system for getting involved.”

Other factors like cost of living, Texas’ existing military presence, and the “presence of incubator hubs” were also taken into account.

Read the whole article here.

U.S. Army Mirrored Amazon’s HQ2 Search Tactics in Choosing New Futures Command Location

Michael Hardy at Texas Monthly noted at the Army took a page out of the private sector playbook in mimicking the location selection process of Amazon’s second HQ.

“Starting with 150 potential locations, the Army used metrics like research funding and patents filed to narrow the list down to 30,” Hardy wrote. “Factoring in quality-of-life concerns further winnowed the contestants to 15, a list with significant overlap to Amazon’s 20-city shortlist. The Army then dispatched a ground team to evaluate the final five cities…”

This could be indicative of the Army Futures Command’s strong push for innovation and amending the perceived antiquated nature of the Department of Defense. It also could signify an increase in more private sector partnerships and more openness to rapid acquisition of new technology.

Read the whole story here.

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