The U.S. Army senior leaders today activated Army Futures Command, a headquarters in Austin, Texas charged with overseeing the service's multi-billion modernization effort.
On the 19th floor of the University of Texas Systems Building, the new home of AFC, the Army's uniformed and civilian leadership joined Texas officials to welcome the new command along with Gen. John "Mike" Murray, who was promoted this morning to lead AFC.
"I cannot tell you how honored I am to be standing in front of you today as the very first commander of Army Futures Command," said Murray, who was joined by his top noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Major Michael Crosby. "... From this location, we will provide the unity of command and the unity of effort that will bring the concepts, requirements, science and technology, research, development, testing and engineering and acquisitions communities together to ensure that the United States Army remains the preeminent ground combat force in the world forever."
Secretary of the Army Mark Esper described the activation of AFC as the most significant reorganization of the Army since 1973, when leaders launched a series of bold initiatives that resulted in the creation of the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, Air-Land Battle Doctrine and the "Big 5," referring to the M1 tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and the Patriot surface to air missile system.
AFC "will develop the Army's future warfighting concept," Esper said. "It will generate innovative solutions in research and development and it will field the next generation of combat systems."
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that the state was "incredibly proud the United States Army chose our state and chose this city for the new command."
"We cherish this partnership, and we look forward to the many innovations that it will produce together. We will ensure that the men and women of our armed forces have the very best tools to defend our freedom and to promote security across the entire globe," Abbott said.
The Army announced its intention to stand up Army Futures Command last October to reform the service's bureaucratic acquisitions system and replace the Army's Big 5 platforms though six modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a mobile network, air and missile defense and soldier lethality.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley called the new command "our scout into the future."
"Most of us for the last 16 or 17 years have been wrapped up in today, but we need to think about tomorrow," Milley said. "This command is all about setting the United States Army up to be not only winning on a battlefield but to be decisive and absolutely dominate on the battlefield so that we inflict punishment and destroy the enemy at least cost to ourselves."
To make this happen, the Army decided that command would like no other, Milley said.
"They are not going to wear uniforms, so this isn't going to be folks running around in uniforms or that sort of thing," said Milley during a press conference in Austin following the ceremony. He did not elaborate on what AFC personnel would be wearing to work every day.
"We think that is important; this is the first time in Army history that we have ever planted a major headquarters right smack in the center of an urban area in the United States," Milley said. "Why are we doing that? Because we think that the connective tissue between the American people and the American Army needs to be strengthened. It's important, I think, we all think, to put it right in the heart of an American city to leverage the entrepreneurial spirit, the energy and the innovation of American citizens."
Army officials say that AFC will cost between $80 million and $100 million per year to operate, similar to the operating budgets of Army Forces Command, Training and Doctrine Command and Army Materiel Command. AFC will oversee up to $50 billion per year in modernization programs, Army officials maintain.
Language in the recently passed 2019 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Army to submit a study to Congress early next year that lays out the structure and leadership of the planned command.
A new amendment has also been added to the appropriations bill -- which funds the defense budget -- that would put funding for Futures Command on hold until two Government Accountability Office studies examining the command's cost effectiveness are completed, Stars and Stripes reported.
Milley stressed that AFC is only at initial operating capability.
"It exists, there is a building, we have a commander," Milley said, estimating that it's going to take "a solid six months" to work out policies and procedures of the command.
The command will producing output for the Army within a year, he said.
"Output," Esper added, "will be Gen. Murray delivering on time on schedule the quality products our soldiers will need to fight and win."
"And that doesn't mean he won't fail along the way ... I expect we will fail because that means we are trying, but we want to fail early and fail cheap in order to make sure we are ready by 2028 with that next generation starting to come to the field," Esper said.
Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.