WASHINGTON — Army leaders announced on Friday that they have chosen Austin, Texas, as the location for a new command headquarters that will focus on how to modernize the service and prepare for future wars.
The Army laid out plans to create the so-called Futures Command last October, marking the first time in decades that the service has added such a high-level, new headquarters.
Austin, known for its live music scene, also has a favorable business, academic and technology climate that will mesh well with the Army's needs, said the officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the selection before it was made public.
The command is expected to have a staff of about 500 people, led by a four-star general.
Initially, 15 cities were in contention, but the Army narrowed down the list to five finalists last month: Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Gov. Greg Abbott expressed his pride in the Army coming to Texas:
The legacy of America's freedom depends in part on the ability of our Armed Forces to remain at the forefront of technological advancement, expand our military's power to assess threats, and modernize our defense. The State of Texas is proud to partner with the U.S. Army in establishing the Futures Command to harness the cutting-edge technologies needed to build an innovative, research-based foundation for our national defense. This sweeping reorganization of the Army's military efforts adds to the historic connection between Texas and the U.S. military, and I am proud of their presence in the Lone Star State.
The Austin Chamber and Mayor Adler released a statement thanking the Army for selecting Austin:
This is a major win for the Austin Mega Region. It further reinforces our unique combination of resources – a deep talent base, innovative thinkers and high quality of life – that make the area so attractive. We want to thank the multiple organizations, representatives and officials across Central Texas who came together to support this amazing opportunity,” said Phil Wilson, Chairman, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.” We look forward to helping make the Austin region home of the Army Futures Command as they centralize and seed innovation to the battlefield under a new four-star general.”
“It's exciting that Austin has been selected as the home of the new Army Futures Command,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “Innovation and creativity are intersecting with more industries every day, and it’s happening more and more in Austin, an international innovation capital. This announcement is great for our economy and presents endless possibilities to develop collaboration with our vibrant and thriving technology industry."
U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), shared the following message reacting to the news that the Army Futures Command center is coming to Austin:
Austin fits the mission as a city of innovation—a community that promotes creativity, entrepreneurship and diversity. We will now play a leading role in ensuring our national security. Together with our supportive neighbor, San Antonio, already known as Military City, we have a partnership that will help our local economies by helping to secure our country.
Congressman John Carter (TX-31) also released a statement:
I’m proud to have secured the last bit of funding necessary, with the help of Defense Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, to make Austin the new home of Futures Command,” Congressman Carter said. “As the command tasked with spearheading Army modernization projects and preparing for future conflict, the new Futures Command will serve a critical role in strengthening the security of our country and will be an economic driver for the Central Texas region. This major investment in Central Texas will also immediately bring 500 new jobs, and further strengthen Central Texas’ economy. Central Texas is one of the fastest growing regions in the nation, with outstanding universities, affordable housing, and a commitment to America’s military that can’t be matched. I expect to see many of these new Texas residents plant their roots right here in Texas’ 31st Congressional District and we welcome them with open arms.
Army leaders have said they wanted the headquarters located near technology and innovation experts who can identify emerging threats and help develop systems and equipment to counter them.
"We're looking at the best of what America has to offer when it comes to technology and industry and education," Army Col. Patrick Seiber, spokesman for the Army Futures Command Task Force, said last month. "That means we need to get to where these folks are."
Army leaders also wanted a place where people would want to live. They looked at how much money is spent in each city on research and development, among other factors.
"Austin fits the mission as a city of innovation_a community that promotes creativity, entrepreneurship and diversity," Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said in a statement. "We will now play a leading role in ensuring our national security. Together with our supportive neighbor, San Antonio, already known as Military City, we have a partnership that will help our local economies by helping to secure our country."
The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce touted the city as a place where its many entrepreneurs, college students and military reservists could offer the command new ideas.
Battered by nearly 17 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq and strained by escalating cybersecurity threats, the rising powers of China and Russia, challenges in North Korea and Iran, and stubborn insurgencies in Yemen, Somalia and Syria, the U.S. military has struggled to keep pace with evolving technologies while still meeting the immediate combat, equipment and staffing needs for the current global fights.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has made it clear that military readiness and lethality are his key priorities for the department and that the services must be prepared for an ever-changing enemy.
But the Pentagon and the services are historically mired in bureaucratic red tape, making it difficult to make decisions or changes quickly, particularly involving acquisition efforts to buy or upgrade equipment and systems.