Update: 6:25 p.m.
The United States Army wants to modernize and move into a new era. Its leaders have decided the best place to do so is at the University of Texas.
The UT Board of Regents voted Friday to provide the Army with space in the UT System building at 210 W. Seventh St., Austin.
According to Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, the details of the deal are still being finalized.
“The state’s been very generous. The UT system’s been very cooperative in trying to offer things that will enable us. But we’re still working through it. The ink’s not dry, so we’ll find out how that works out,” Wesley said.
According to Wesley, choosing Austin and locating Futures Command near a hub of research and innovation was a key priority for the Army.
“The Army has been an industrial institution for a number of decades,” he said. “We were built in the industrial era and we did well in that era and we dominated our opponents for decades. But the world is changing. And there will be threats on the horizon, and any Army’s role is to anticipate what those threats are going to be.”
“You need to be smashing into young kids with laptops who are hanging out at Starbucks. You can’t be doing that by staying at a military installation behind your walls and security barriers; you need to smash into them.”
Wesley said the center will bring area 500 jobs, which will be a combination of hires from within the Army and hires from the local area. Joshua Baer, founder and CEO of Capital Factory, said the local impact of the Army Futures Command will go well beyond 500 jobs.
“There will be many other companies that set up shop here because they want to be around that, and that’s going to mean more jobs and more investment and more companies coming here that I think will create opportunity for everybody,” Baer said.
Baer said startups can help the Army thrive in Austin because small companies are more willing to take risks than large organizations such as the U.S. Military.
“That’s why it’s essential that large organizations like the military or any other really big company, have to work with startups, because that’s how they get access to the innovative ideas and talent and flow that comes out of that,” he said.
City Manager Spencer Cronk said no municipal incentives were offered to the U.S. Army as a part of the deal.
Austin will become the center of an effort to modernize the military, according to an announcement this morning from the Pentagon.
The last time the U.S. Army reorganized its commands was 1973. The Army at the time created the Army Forces Command, or FORSCOM, now headquartered in Fort Bragg, N.C., and the Army Training in Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, now located in Fort Eustis, Va., in response to the Vietnam War and the end of the military draft.
“Military organization faces its crucial test in wartime. A cessation of hostilities usually brings substantial organizational change to correct imperfections exposed by the conflict, to take advantage of lessons learned from it, and to adjust to postwar conditions,” read the Army’s 1973 historical summary.
For 45 years, FORSCOM, TRADOC and the Army Materiel Command—established in 1962—were responsible for the organization and leadership of the force. However, the challenges the United States faces today are very different than they were at the end of the Vietnam War.
In a Dec. 7 speech to the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Armed Forces, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said rising competitors with forces that match and “in a few cases exceed” U.S. capabilities are a growing threat, and “even in the absence of direct conflict with such states, we should expect to encounter their weapons and systems in the hands of others.”
“In short, our failure to modernize as quickly as possible will most likely exacerbate the significant risks the Total Army faces now,” said Esper, who announced Friday morning the decision to base that modernization effort in Austin.
“The Army chose Austin as a location for the AFC headquarters because it not only possessed the talent, the entrepreneurial spirit and the access to keep partners we are seeking but also because it offers the quality of life our people desire and a cost of living they can afford,” he said.
The Army sought headquarters located “near innovative and agile industrial and academic institutions,” according to its website, “in a place where the command will inculcate the culture needed to develop the innovation and synergy required to lead the Army’s modernization effort.”
After initially releasing a list of 15 cities of finalists, including Houston and Dallas, the Army whittled the list to five before announcing the selection of Austin over Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh, N.C. The new command will bring about 500 jobs to the area and will be led by a four-star general.
Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce Chairman Phil Wilson called the move 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,” Wilson said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, released a video message on his website Thursday night ahead of the official announcement.
“Austin fits this mission as a city of innovation that values entrepreneurship, creativity and diversity,” Doggett said.
Mayor Steve Adler also commended the move.
“Innovation and creativity are intersecting with more industries every day, and it’s happening more and more in Austin, an international innovation capital,” Adler said in a statement.
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said incentives were offered by the state of Texas, but declined to release the details.