Here's How the Army Selected the Home for New Futures Command

A view of the Austin, Texas skyline. (Getty Images)
A view of the Austin, Texas skyline. (Getty Images)

U.S. Army leaders on Friday mapped out the exhaustive effort that went into selecting Austin, Texas, as the home of the new Army Futures Command.

For months, leaders have been evaluating dozens of large U.S. cities to find the right blend of industry, academia and economic environment to locate the headquarters that will lead the service's bold modernization plan to prepare for the next major conflict.

"The choice was very difficult, but we ultimately had to make a choice that was best for the U.S. Army," Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.

With the help of an outside firm and "our own internal studies and analysis," the Army decided the winning city would have to offer attributes such as proximity to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, workers and industries, as well as to private sector and innovation, McCarthy said.

The ideal location needed to have made significant investments in economic development, STEM, and research and development, as well as offer quality of life for Army personnel assigned to AFC headquarters, he said.

The effort began with a list of 30 cities, which was quickly narrowed to 15. Austin was selected from a short list of five, beating out Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina.

"As we looked at each city, beyond the metrics that drove us to the five, we envisioned how each city's ecosystem would support our modernization effort priorities vertically -- from concept to capability to solution," McCarthy said. "We do not have time to build this ecosystem we need to be ready immediately."

AFC headquarters needs a location that provides "mature entrepreneurial incubator hubs that give our leaders placement and access to talent," he said.

The Army also wanted "space and access to a top-tier university system science and engineering department where engineers and collaborative teams can support experiments, prototype concepts and systems," McCarthy said.

The Army announced this major modernization effort in October and unveiled six new modernization priorities: long-range precision fires; next-generation combat vehicle; future vertical lift; a mobile network; air and missile defense; and soldier lethality. For each priority, special cross-functional teams of experts have been assembled to pursue change for the Army.

If all goes as planned, the service's new priorities will ultimately lead to the replacement of all of its "Big Five" combat platforms from the Cold War with modern platforms and equipment. These systems include the M1 Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk helicopter, Apache attack helicopter and Patriot air defense system.

Placing AFC in Austin will force the Army to "move behind the walls of traditional posts and forts and place ourselves in the middle of an urban center. This is where collaboration, networking and innovation is happening daily at rates that cannot be duplicated on any Army post or industrial park," McCarthy said.

AFC headquarters will be made up of approximately 500 personnel, and the command is scheduled to reach full operational capability by next summer, Army officials say.

The new command will be led by a four-star general, who has not been named.

"There is a commander in mind," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said. "We have made a nomination; that nomination is not yet public."

Senior leaders said this is the biggest organizational change for the service in more than four decades.

"We are an industrial-age organization, and our systems are in many ways built during a period of time which they are linear and progressive and hierarchical and, in some cases, stove-piped," Milley said. "This is an attempt by the United States Army to break through that and to bring us into the 21st century in our organizations, our processes and our leadership."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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