The Army has chosen Austin, Texas, over Philadelphia and three other cities as headquarters for its new Army Futures Command, which will employ around 500 civilian and military personnel heading teams designed to speed weapons and transportation systems’ design and procurement.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, who made the announcement Friday morning, said that while it was a difficult choice, Austin possesses the necessary talent and “offers the quality of life our people desire.”
Lauren Cox, spokesperson for Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce, said it was disappointing that Philadelphia wasn’t selected.
“We are glad this process has put our city in the national spotlight once again as an ideal location for other large-scale projects,” she said.
A bipartisan group of six U.S. senators from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware and eight members of Congress representing the area wrote to Army Undersecretary Ryan D. McCarthy earlier this year, touting the region’s skilled and technical workforce and its defense industry — which includes the Boeing factory that makes the Army’s Chinook helicopters, plus electronics and software makers.
The region also has the Navy engineering center in South Philadelphia, among other facilities — plus local engineering schools, “high quality of life,” and its proximity to Washington and its nearby military facilities.
The headquarters would have been a welcome boost for the city tech community, said Matthew P. Cabrey, head of the business-location group Select Greater Philadelphia First.
Charisse Bodisch, an official from Austin’s Chamber of Commerce, said one reason she believes Austin was chosen is that it is a major technology hub. She added that nearly 140,000 military veterans live in the region.
The command will include eight “cross-functional teams” (CFTs) combining development, procurement standards, contracting, and “sustainment” staff to simplify what the Army calls its “requirements development process,” Esper said in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in December.
The teams will focus on the Army’s “modernization priorities,” which include better long-range “precision fire,” a new combat vehicle, and missile defense, among other goals, Esper said at that time, adding that the service has learned from past procurement failures.”
The Army wants to move faster from prototypes to testing to evaluation and, if necessary, to modify and repeat the process. That’s so the people who start work on a weapon or system are more likely to be there when it’s ready to go into production.