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Army opens Futures Command in Texas to eye 21st-century threats

August 24, 2018

AUSTIN, Texas Two floors of a nondescript office building overlooking the Texas capitol have become the Army’s central hub for 21st-century war.

From developing new strategies in the event of conflict with traditional adversaries such as Russia and China to developing cutting-edge weapons that have yet to even be conceived, Army leaders on Friday launched the branch’s biggest reorganization effort in nearly five decades, formally opening the Army Futures Command in the heart of this bustling city’s downtown corridor.

Lawmakers and military leaders gathered here to formally begin the new initiative, which represents the Pentagon’s ambitious effort to house all of the Army’s future conflict efforts under one roof. The Command will operate out of a University of Texas at Austin building, and officials said the location will allow the military to coordinate closely with leaders in academia, business and technology.

“It will develop the Army’s future war-fighting concepts. It will generate innovative solutions. We knew that to do this right we needed to immerse ourselves in an environment where innovation occurs,” Army Secretary Mark Esper said during a ceremony here on Friday morning.

The Futures Command marks the first time the military will house such an initiative outside of a military base. The Pentagon chose Austin over Boston, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Minneapolis and other cities that also were considered. Officials said about 500 people will work in the facility, which will be overseen by Lt. Gen. John Murray.

The Command’s mission will be spread across a variety of theaters. Lawmakers said the Command will be tasked with looking into the future and envisioning what the next generation of threats will look like, and developing plans to deal with them quickly and effectively.

“The military must continue to lead with evolving technologies in order to maintain our strategic advantage. This is our only option,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican. “There is no plan B. We have no choice but to constantly modernize our military. It’s a national imperative and we can’t afford to take that responsibility lightly.”

Specifically, Army leaders on Friday said their work in Austin will include work on self-driving vehicles, robots, new night-vision glasses that are far less bulky than older models, updated forms of missile defense, and more modern weapons that ultimately could replace the traditional firearms seen on today’s battlefields. The Command also will become the central development and acquisition headquarters for the Army, allowing it to more quickly identify the technologies it needs and develop them.

“Why does it take five-to-seven years to make a decision about what you want?” said Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy. “No one was principally responsible for driving the modernization strategy of the Army.”

The initiative is new territory for the military, Mr. McCarthy added, because the Command will operate outside of a military base and will be more connected with the community, its businesses, researchers, and innovators than ever before.

“This move is like no other. You’ve never had a command posted in the middle of a city,” he said.

The Futures Command was first conceived about three years ago, officials said, and was ultimately shepherded across the finish line by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Mr. Esper, other military leaders, and key lawmakers such as Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

Officials said the Command will offer a unique partnership between the state, city and military.

“Austin, Texas, and the University of Texas have become the epicenter of innovation and transformative technology. This headquarters takes the next step in the shared mission that we have all been working toward,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican. “We all grasp the gravity that it’s simply not enough for America to adapt to these challenges. Instead, the United States must lead the world in innovation and technology advancements just as we have for decades.”

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