From Defense-Industrial Complex to Defense-Technology Complex: The US Army Makes its Move

Recognizing the need to more rapidly modernize its forces, the US Army established the Army Futures Command (AFC) in July 2018. The AFC represents the most significant reorganization within the Army in almost 50 years. The Army knew that in order to maintain military superiority, it had to transform the way it develops and adopts new technology. It needed to become more like America’s commercial tech sector, which has transformed the way we all live our lives.

Therefore, rather than isolating the unit inside the gates of a traditional Army Post, AFC headquarters is being embedded within Austin’s fast-growing tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Austin competed with four other finalists (Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Raleigh) to host the AFC headquarters. Once it is fully operational, AFC headquarters will employ about 500 military and civilian personnel in Austin, in addition to 17,000 other soldiers and civilians located at Army Posts in several other states. The headquarters is being housed within the University of Texas System’s downtown Austin office. The AFC also plans to locate some of its personnel at the Capital Factory, a downtown Austin accelerator and co-working space.

The implications for economic development are still unfolding. The AFC intends to partner more closely with the civilian tech sector to design, develop, test, and adopt new advancements in areas such as robotics, autonomous vehicles, communications, intelligence, navigation, medicine, and information security. The Army anticipates its presence in Austin will make it easier to attract the critical talent necessary to advance these technologies. Beyond the 500 new jobs it brings, AFC’s presence in Austin will likely mean new businesses, labs, and talent will come to the region seeking to be near the command.

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