By Gary Dinges
AUSTIN, Texas — The U.S. Army has selected Austin as the site for its Futures Command center, according to published reports.
The Bloomberg news service was first to report the development Thursday.
Austin had been one of five finalists, along with Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh, N.C.
“Austin fits the mission as a city of innovation — a community that promotes creativity, entrepreneurship and diversity,” U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, told The Austin American-Statesman. “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 Army declined to comment when contacted Thursday by the Statesman. The Pentagon is expected to make a formal announcement at 9 a.m. Friday.
The Futures Command center will focus on modernizing the U.S. Army and developing new military technologies. It is expected to employ up to 500 people.
A team from the military visited Austin in June, met with civic leaders and looked at potential lease space options.
The University of Texas System Board of Regents has posted plans for a telephone meeting Friday afternoon to discuss leasing space in the system’s downtown headquarters building “to the United States government,” possibly the Army.
In a statement to the Statesman last month, Phil Wilson, chairman of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, that he was certain Austin “could be a suitable home well outside the D.C. beltway for our Army’s new fourth command.”
“We strongly support our U.S. Army’s efforts to centralize and speed innovation to the battlefield under a new four-star general,” Wilson said. “We have 36 startup incubators and accelerators, 450,000 college students, 24,000 reservists, proximity to Camp Mabry, Operational Test Command at Fort Hood, medical R&D operations at Brooke Army Medical Center and Joint Base San Antonio, all of which would surround the Army Futures Command with new ideas. Our quality of life and cost of living for families is also very attractive, including for the 140,000 veterans who live in the Austin region.”
Earlier in the process, 10 other cities that had previously been under consideration — Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle — were notified they were no longer candidates, according to Army Col. Patrick Seiber.
“What we’re looking for is to be in a city that has talent, that is innovative, that we have access to academia who are leading thinkers,” Seiber said in a previous interview with the Statesman. “We want to partner with the best and brightest.”
Military leaders have described the Futures Command project as the Army’s most significant reorganization since 1973. In announcing plans for the center earlier this year, they described the new operation’s objectives this way: “Modernizes the Army for the future… will integrate the future operational environment, threat and technologies to develop and deliver future force requirements, designing future force organizations, and delivering materiel capabilities.”
The Futures Command center is expected to lead innovation for the Army’s top six modernization projects, including improvement to its tactical missile system, combat vehicles and helicopters, defense teams and weapons.
Army officials indicated they were seeking a high-tech, creative culture for the location, rather than a traditionally structured Army post. This, officials have said, should include a local workforce with experience in biomedicine, chemistry, computer hardware and software, electronics, materials and mechanical systems.
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