WASHINGTON -- Austin, Texas was chosen for Army Futures Command's headquarters location after a review of the top 150 research institutes in the U.S., said Gen. John M. Murray, AFC's commanding general. It also ranked high in critical technology fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering, systems developers, and quality of life.
Although AFC is headquartered in downtown Austin, "we are not limited to Austin. We intend to become a global command, searching for disruptive technologies, wherever they might be," he added.
Murray spoke at the Association of the United States Army's National Partner Luncheon, Oct. 10.
"Over time, we will expand our reach across the United States, to work with small businesses, innovators, entrepreneurs, inventors, venture capitalists, academic institutions and the defense industry to create ideas and develop solutions for our Soldiers," he said.
"We intend to develop the technologies and solutions that will enable us to modernize the force quickly, effectively and cost effectively, wherever and whenever they might be," Murray said. "We will harness advances in artificial intelligence and big data analysis to quickly process information and identify trends that will shape modernization efforts."
Austin will contain probably less than 5 percent of AFC personnel, he said. A large chunk of U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center, which will be renamed Futures and Concepts when it falls under AFC, will remain at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
And, all of U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which falls under AFC, will stay at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, with its Army Research Laboratories spread out across the U.S.
The eight cross-functional teams, or CFTs, that make up AFC are strategically scattered across the U.S. where it makes sense to have located them, he added.
There's a lot of value to not moving them to Austin, because connections have already been established, people aren't worried about moving, and the Army is not having to re-hire personnel.
AMAZING AUSTIN VIBE
"Austin has an amazing vibe to it," Murray said, speaking to its innovation hubs. "It exposes us to different technologies and different combinations of technologies we're not normally exposed to. The value is it forces us to think differently about how we're looking at the future."
While AFC has recently taken residence in downtown Austin, other organizations have quietly set up shop in offices on the fifth floor of the Capital Factory building, where AFC HQ is located.
They include the Defense Innovation Unit and the Air Force's AFWERX. Those organizations, along with AFC's parallel unit, Army Applications Laboratory, foster a culture of innovation, he said.
"Every day we're collaborating and sharing lessons learned," Murray said. For instance, Army Applications Laboratory and Special Operation Command's SOFWERX sponsored a hackathon recently.
The Capital Factory and other innovation hubs in Austin will work with promising startups to help them scale up their capabilities, Murray explained. The Army is also working with the University of Texas system in Austin.
In less than 12 months, the CFTs "have validated our approach by producing solutions that are rapid delivery to our Soldiers, and in most cases, cutting the traditional requirements to acquisition timeline significantly, in some cases, years off the traditional acquisition timeline," Murray said.
The eight CFTs share the same name with the six Army modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the Army network, air and missile defense and Soldier lethality. The other two CFTs are synthetic training and assured position, navigation and timing.
"We want to build, fail, learn and build again to get advanced capabilities into the hands of our Soldiers at the speed of relevance," he said.
One of the downsides of AFC being spread across the U.S. -- and ultimately the globe -- is the cultural piece, Murray said, meaning that the Austin "vibe" is hard to share when people are not physically there.
Murray explained his philosophy: "This is not about any one organization. This is not about who gets success. This is not about who gets blamed for failure. This is about output. And the only output that matters is on a future battlefield where our Soldiers are successful and can come home to their families. Holding people accountable for output is how you start bending the culture. It will be my focus."