Congressmen who represent the Fort Hood area are applauding the Army’s decision to establish a new command unit in Austin.
The Army Futures Command, to be led by a four-star general, will spearhead the Army’s modernization of new equipment.
The Army announced on Friday that Austin will serve as unit’s headquarters, with about 500 people.
“This is great news for the state of Texas and the United States. Austin is the fastest growing city in the nation, and I cannot think of a location more fit to serve as the modernization and innovation hub for the United States Army. It creates a unique synergy between the military, academia and industry partners, unified in their goal to provide soldiers with the weapons and equipment that they need to fight and win,” said Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, whose district includes parts of Killeen and Fort Hood. “As a resident and the representative of Austin, I welcome the Army Futures Command, and look forward to working with them to ensure the Army remains the best trained and equipped fighting force in the world.”
Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, whose district includes much of Bell County and a part of Fort Hood, said helped secure “the last bit of funding necessary, with the help of Defense Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, to make Austin the new home of Futures Command.”
Officials with the Army Futures Command did not respond on Friday to questions from the Herald on if Fort Hood’s proximity to the Texas capital influenced the decision to bring the new unit to Austin. Fort Hood also declined comment on Friday.
But that proximity — about 70 miles — was used as selling point from Texas officials when trying to lure the new unit to Austin, which was in competition with other tech-heavy cities to be the home base for the new unit.
“Central Texas is already home to a large military presence with several posts including Fort Hood, Joint Base San Antonio, Camp Mabry and Camp Swift,” according to a letter from Carter and other Congressman to the under secretary of the Army in May.
John Crutchfield, president of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce and executive director of the Killeen Economic Development Corporation, said he has been in communication with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce throughout the city-selection process.
Although he believes the proximity of Fort Hood had some influence on the Army’s decision to build the center in Austin, more factors were likely in play that made them favor Central Texas, he said. Those factors include nearby school systems, including the University of Texas at Austin.
Technology in the private sector is another added bonus for the Army, Crutchfield said.
“The military has historically had success in tapping into the innovation in Austin,” he said. “It’s a great thing for Central Texas.”
Phil Wilson, chairman of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, told Austin-American Statesman in June that he was certain Austin “could be a suitable home well outside the D.C. beltway for our Army’s new fourth command,” and one of the reasons why was the “Operational Test Command” at Fort Hood.
A longtime unit at Fort Hood, Operational Test Command is made up of soldiers and Department of the Army civilians who field test new Army equipment and vehicles. Operational Test Command falls under the umbrella of Army Test and Evaluation Command, headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
No one from Fort Hood is expected to be moving to Austin as part of the new command.
“This is not about moving lots of people from other commands,” said Ryan D. McCarthy, Under Secretary of the Army. “Army Futures Command can be best characterized as a restructuring and de-layering to maintain the ‘best in breed’ in all military capabilities.”
When it reaches full operating capacity in summer 2019, the headquarters will comprise about 500 personnel. Sub-organizations, many of which currently reside within U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and Army Materials Command, will transition to Army Futures Command in the coming months, according to an Army release on Friday.
“The Army has no plan to physically move units or personnel from these commands at the present time,” according to the release.
The Army Futures Command’s main mission will be to speed up the often slow process of getting new and better equipment into the hands of soldiers, including those at Fort Hood.
“The establishment of the Army Futures Command is the best example of our commitment to the future readiness and lethality of the force,” said Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper. “Army Futures Command will help fulfill the Army vision by addressing the key shortcomings of the current acquisition system, providing unity of command, effort, and purpose to the entire modernization enterprise.”