To that end, Gen. John M. Murray, the commander of the new Army Futures Command, said progress has moved quickly over the last year and a half. At a panel discussion held at The University of Texas McCombs School of Business on Jan. 8, Murray said what started as 40-person operation in the summer of 2018 has grown to a presence of just north of 400 people working for the Army Futures Command locally—and 26,000 overall.
Alongside Josh Baer of tech startup incubator Capital Factory and host Evan Smith, the CEO and co-founder of the Texas Tribune, Murray joked that U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy refers to Murray as the Army’s “chief investment officer.” The entire budget for the Army Futures Command in fiscal year 2018-19 was just under $38 billion, Murray said, and the command has $10 billion over a five-year period to invest in new technologies.
While Murray said there has been progress since he took command in Austin, he also has his eye toward the long term.
“People, when I took command, said I had to change the Army’s culture. I disagree with that 100%,” Murray said. “This risk aversion is part of a subculture, if you will, of how we acquire things and how we develop things—this fear of failure. It’s not going to change overnight, and it’s not going to change in its totality. This will be a multiyear, if not decades, long effort to change.”
A year ago, after the Army Futures Command announcement, Baer said he and the Capital Factory team set a barometer of what success would look like and agreed they would be pleased with three startups getting some business going with the Army.
“I got a list this morning of about 20 companies in our community that are engaged with the Army, with the Air Force. We’re talking about more than $10 million of [Small Business Innovation Research] Grant money flowing. ... There’s real business happening already, and that’s really fast.”