Other

U.S. Army of the future being developed in this Texas town

The Army of the future will rely heavily on technology, including virtual reality. [ANA RAMIREZ/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
By Sebastian Herrera sherrera@statesman.com
Posted: Feb. 21, 2019 12:26 pm Updated: Feb. 21, 2019 12:28 pm

The U.S. government’s vision for a high-tech melting pot of military officers and Austin, Texas, tech workers is finally happening.

The military’s Center for Defense Innovation made its debut Thursday at Austin tech hub Capital Factory. The facility is part of the Army’s new Futures Command program, and will also include personnel from the Air Force, Department of Defense and other government organizations.

The innovation center will be the primary gateway for the military to link up with and work alongside startup companies and entrepreneurs in town as it seeks to update its technology.

When the Army last year chose Austin as the headquarters for its Futures Command, an operation it says will drive modernization for the U.S. military, one of its goals included having a working space at Capital Factory. The tech hub has become home to dozens of startup companies and is an integral part of Austin’s tech culture.

While the Futures Command will be the most integral part of the more than 21,000 square feet of space on the eighth floor of the Omni Hotel building, the center will also house dozens of workers from innovation programs by the Army Research Labs, Air Force, Department of Defense and government consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

As the teams settle in, they’ll be expected to pitch and work toward new technology projects for the military, Army Col. Patrick Seiber said. While innovation projects for vehicles, weapons and other military products will be tested throughout the nation, Seiber said, the Army is hoping many of the ideas are sparked in Austin.

“Our reason to come to Austin is the draw of entrepreneurs,” Seiber said. “Now that they’ve built out the 8th floor, that’s where our presence can work alongside Capital Factory.”

The Futures Command debuted in August after a months-long search for a headquarters. Army personnel said the command, the first of its kind, will be responsible for leading modernization of the military’s weapons, vehicles, equipment and other divisions. Army personnel said they picked Austin because of the numerous tech startups here, as well as access to research institutions and quality of life.

While the Future Command’s headquarters is at the University of Texas System building downtown, the organization’s Capital Factory outpost provides a space in close proximity to potential startup partners, Seiber said. In addition to Booz Allen Hamilton, Seiber said, the military has started to work with Austin software startup Senseye.

To date, the Futures Command has hired about 150 staff members, many of whom are civilian workers.

The Army said it could eventually staff up to 500 people at the facility. Up to 60 personnel could initially be based out of the hub at Capital Factory, Seiber said. The Army is also working to start other outposts at Texas A&M University.

“We’re continuing to grow our numbers,” Seiber said. With the innovation center’s opening, “we’re in a position now where we can put even more folks out here.”

In Case You Missed It

Haunted Hannibal next week
Downtown Hannibal will become a family-friendly haunted haven of activities, attractions and celebrations during the Haunted Hannibal Festival on Friday, Oct. 25, Saturday, Oct. 26 and Thursday, Oct. 31