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Thursday, September 24, 2020
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Government THE ECONOMIST: A new era for the military

THE ECONOMIST: A new era for the military

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The newest army command is coming to Austin. Army Futures Command is part of a historic reorganization of the Army and is the first new 4-star command in 45 years. It’s a notable departure for the Army, being located in an urban area rather than a military base and having an express mission of interacting with the surrounding businesses and academia. The new facility will employ about 500 people once fully operational, including 400 civilians.

The Army considered 150 cities. Austin was selected in July from a short list of five based on the density of industry and academic talent and proximity to private-sector innovation. The new facility will be instrumental in modernizing the Army, including improving understanding of the future environment and emerging threats. Simply stated, Army Futures Command is charged with preparing the Army for the conflicts of the future.

By tapping into private-sector and academic know-how, the Army can better develop solutions to future problems. With Austin’s large number of professionals in science and technology industries and thousands of graduates each year in science, technology, engineering and mathematics career fields, the area is well-equipped to work with the Army to modernize. The Army placed the command in an urban setting to be “closer to technology innovators and researchers in one of the nation’s top growing technology cities.”

Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will be used in battle by someone (ally or enemy) whether we like it or not, and the job of Army Futures Command is to ensure that U.S. soldiers have the best technologies available. By integrating into a hub city for innovation and startups, the idea is to tap into and work with those companies and researchers at the forefront. It will be a synergistic relationship because the Army will also provide a significant infusion of funds to leading-edge researchers.

Austin won the location not only because of the technology orientation and innovative mindset the area is known for, but also because of its relatively reasonable cost of living and high quality of life. The state also stepped up with incentives, recognizing the significance of having this command in Texas. Clearly, Texas’s business climate played a role in winning the location.

From an economic perspective, the addition of 500 well-paying jobs will bring notable benefits. Beyond the direct employment, the presence of a major command center will provide new resources to the area to support synergistic research and innovation across many settings, generating further gains in business activity. Perhaps most important, it is a statement that in one of the most important arenas imaginable, Texas has shown itself to be an innovation juggernaut of global significance.

M. Ray Perryman is president and CEO of The Perryman Group (www.perrymangroup.com). He also serves as Institute Distinguished Professor of Economic Theory and Method at the International Institute for Advanced Studies.

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