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AUSTIN, Texas — The U.S. Army is hoping its new command will thrive here, in glass-walled rooms filled with 3D printers, half-assembled robotics and designers donning hoodies.
The Army Futures Command is responsible for leveraging innovation, improving agility, and leaping ahead of emerging threats — a hearty task for the service, which has historically faced layers of bureaucratic minutiae.
For that reason, the command was placed in the upbeat heart of downtown Austin, Texas, which has become one of the biggest magnets for tech investment and entrepreneurship outside of California.
"Locating it [the command] here in Austin demonstrates the type of bold change we need to excel in today's combat environment," Mark Esper, secretary of the Army, said Friday during the Army Futures Command ribbon-cutting ceremony.
"We knew that to do this right we needed to immerse ourselves in an environment where innovation encourages speeds far faster than our current process," Esper said, noting that the Army was excited to establish a command outside of a military base.
The command shares the slick glossy floors and mixed-material architecture with University of Texas School of Engineering, as well as with Capital Factory, a vibrant open office space focused on connecting entrepreneurs to investors.
"The Pentagon can be intimidating, getting onto a military base is hard. This is where we need to be, this is the energy we are after," Ryan McCarthy, under secretary of the Army, explained while en route to the Texan city.
McCarthy, who visited the top five cities competing to host the Army's newest command headquarters, has become a regular visitor to Austin since the Pentagon announced last month that it selected the capital of Texas.
Austin is home to the University of Texas and the annual SXSW (South by Southwest) technology conference, along with several art and music festivals. The city has become a mecca for start-ups, outdrawing Silicon Valley in some respects.
McCarthy added that the local tech industry, which includes giants Dell, Amazon and Apple, have welcomed the idea of partnering with the Army to develop its future capabilities.
Similarly, politicians have enthusiastically embraced the Army's move, which is billed as the largest reorganization of the service since 1973.
"There is no better place for the United States Army than right here in Austin, Texas," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday. The city, he added, provides a "unique opportunity for the Army to work with the very best in academia as well as the private sector."