U.S. Army Futures Command opens in Austin, McCain recognized

Senator John McCain was recognized Friday, a day before his death, during the opening ceremony of the U.S. Army Futures Command in Austin, Texas. General Mark A. Milley, Army Chief of Staff, presided over the ceremony. McCain is credited as the push behind making the Command a reality.

Thanks to an earmark in the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2019 of $10.2 billion, President Trump signed off on the effort as he signed the bill earlier this month. According to this article from the Army News Service, this is the “most significant Army reorganization effort since 1973.” General John M. Murray was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 21 to be the Futures Command first Commanding General.

In July, Army officials picked Austin to be home to the Army’s newest command — the most significant Army reorganization effort since 1973 — mainly because of its innovative environment.

With a sprawling University of Texas campus and a bustling tech industry, Austin will eventually host about 500 Soldiers and civilians when the command reaches full operational capability next summer.

The command will be spread out over about 75,000 square feet at three different locations in the city. Its footprint will include a 20,000-square-foot incubator hub, where 100 personnel from the command will work with small and large companies as well as entrepreneurs to develop technology to help modernize the Army.

The plan is for the Army to partner with business leaders and entrepreneurs to reach 6 modernization goals with the end result of quickly getting equipment and capabilities to soldiers.  (emphasis mine)

Under the command, Cross-Functional Teams have since stood up to tackle the Army’s six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and Soldier lethality.

In long-range precision fires, for instance, the general said the Army is pursuing three levels of weapons systems. At the tactical level, the Army is developing extended range cannon artillery that will give a significant boost in range to hit targets.

A precision missile capability with a much longer range than current systems is being developed at the operational level. At the strategic level, there is a joint interest among the military services for hypersonic weapons, which can travel at speeds of Mach 5 and above.

Futures Command will also work closely with Defense Innovation Unit Experimental. The Defense Department organization, which is based in Silicon Valley and with offices in Austin, Boston and in the Pentagon, helps the U.S. military make swifter use of emerging commercial technologies.

Governor Abbott and Austin Mayor Adler took part of the ceremony. Senators Cornyn and Cruz were also in attendance.

Two of Senator McCain’s staff were present. Discussions on establishing the Futures Command began about two years ago.

Two members of McCain’s staff attended the ushering in of what the Army says amounts to its most significant restructuring in more than 40 years. The command is tasked with modernizing everything from combat vehicles to weapons and helping soldiers adapt to emerging threats from powers such as China and Russia.

Among the first signature initiatives that should come out of the command in the next few years, Army leaders say, is new optical headwear for soldiers that can display maps or simulate missions.

This sounds like a project tailor-made for Senator McCain. He was a big champion of the military and of providing everything possible to help them successfully complete their missions. The city of Austin will be a perfect fit, too. A major technology research and innovation hub, the civilian workforce will be available. The Forces Command will provide jobs for local residents.

About 500 people are expected to work at the command, most of whom will be civilians. The command for now will operate out of the University of Texas System’s new downtown headquarters that is surrounded by nearby startups and tech incubators. The Army says it wanted to tap into that workforce.

Austin, along with Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh were the finalists on the Army’s shortlist.