U.S. Army officials are visiting Austin as they evaluate the city as a possible site for a new operational arm that will be focused on developing new military technologies, Col. Patrick Seiber, an Army spokesman, said Wednesday.
The military officials are considering Austin for the Army’s Futures Command center, which will be the fourth command-level operation in the Army. Austin is the third city to be visited within the past week or so, Seiber said. Army officials have also visited Boston and Raleigh, N.C.
Officials previously said the project will be the most significant reorganization since 1973. In announcing plans for the center earlier this year, they described the new operation’s objectives this way: "Modernizes the Army for the future... will integrate the future operational environment, threat and technologies to develop and deliver future force requirements, designing future force organizations, and delivering materiel capabilities."
In April, Austin was reported to be one of 15 cities to be named among the finalists for the Futures Command, which is expected to employ about 500 people. Dallas and Houston were also on the finalists list.
A team of about five Army officials will be in town for the next few days to meet with elected officials and view potential sites, Seiber said. The Army Futures Command Task Force is looking to lease a space and will primarily examine buildings in downtown and in North Austin, he said.
It’s unclear what the visit might mean for Austin’s prospects of landing the Futures Command center.
"They will be taking a look at what type of facilities there are that are suitable to host a four-star command, where the four-star general is going to live and how much work will need to be done," Seiber said. "They are going to factor in costs and how long it will take and what might be available."
Seiber said a decision on the site could be made by the end of the month.
The Futures Command center is expected to lead innovation for the Army’s top six modernization projects, including improvement to its tactical missile system, combat vehicles and helicopters, defense teams and weapons.
Army officials have indicated that they are seeking a high-tech, creative culture for the location, rather than a traditionally structured Army post. This, officials have said, should include a local workforce with experience in biomedicine, chemistry, computer hardware and software, electronics, materials and mechanical systems.
"What we're looking for is to be in a city that has talent, that is innovative, that we have access to academia who are leading thinkers,” Seiber said. “We want to partner with the best and brightest."
The Army Futures Command Task Force began their search for a headquarters last year, starting with a list of 30 potential sites. The cities shortlisted in April also included Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
Phil Wilson, chairman at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday that the local tech talent, research institutions and proximity to military facilities such as Camp Mabry in Austin and Joint Base San Antonio makes Central Texas a valid contender.
“Our quality of life and cost of living for families is also very attractive, including for the 140,000 veterans who live in the Austin region,” Wilson said in a written statement.
This story has been updated with comments from Col. Patrick Seiber.
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