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Innovators, Austin lifestyle, UT brought Army here

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 by Jo Clifton

Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, who serves as director of combat systems for Austin’s brand-new Army Futures Command, said Tuesday that Austin was chosen as the site of the first new Army command since 1973 because Austin has the talent, the educated workforce, the entrepreneurial spirit and the lifestyle the Army was looking for in choosing the site for its innovative new command.

Before his lunchtime speech to the Real Estate Council of Austin, Ostrowski told the Austin Monitor, “We were looking for the right city that offered the quality of life for the employees who would be part of the command. We were looking for a city that has innovators, like the Capital Factory, with the incubation capabilities you all have here. It’s a great mix of academia as well as industry – nontraditional – so that is the reason why we came here.”

Austin was the clear winner, “hands down,” he said. Other cities that were reportedly in the running included Boston; Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota; Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina; and Philadelphia.

And of course Austin has the University of Texas, which has leased two floors of its downtown headquarters in its willingness to work with the Army. He also said he expects the new command to branch out into other university buildings as opposed to constructing its own buildings.

Ostrowski addressed a full house at the RECA Exchange, explaining that our armed forces, which stand at about 1.3 million, are deployed in more than 140 countries around the world. That number has gone down due to budget cuts, he said. The Army has had to make choices between readiness, paying its people, and modernization.

As a result, he said, the Army “took a vacation” from modernization. But now, through the Army Futures Command, it will begin to prepare for warfare – whatever that might look like – in 2036.

“Russia and China are outspending us,” Ostrowski said, adding that they pay their people significantly less.

But now, Congress has come up with funding to support the Army’s modernization efforts, Ostrowski noted.

In July, Ostrowski was quoted as saying, “In fiscal years 2018 and 2019, our top line budget is higher than it’s been in a long time.” Funding for investment in modernization in FY 2017 was $26.8 billion. “In FY 2018 that number will skyrocket to $28.9, and in FY 2019, that number is $32 billion,” the general said.

Asked why he chose the date 2036, Ostrowski said the Army believes that it can predict what warfare might be like in 2025, but to go beyond that is more difficult. That’s why it needs visionaries and people expert in robotics and the field called hypersonics, he said. (The Pentagon has said that development of hypersonics weapons and defense against hypersonics is its highest research priority.)

He pointed out that many technologies became available between World War I and World War II, but only certain countries took advantage of those technologies. The same can be said of the time between the Vietnam War and Desert Storm, he said.

“The point is if we’re not looking to that future, whether it’s 2030 or 2036, it’s understanding that these technologies will come to bear by then. And we better find a way to make sure that we’re the one taking advantage of that, as opposed to not doing that and watching everybody else get ahead.”

Ostrowski was asked whether the Army Futures Command would be taking over some of the work done by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known by its acronym DARPA. He denied that the futures command would be doing any kind of basic research along the lines of what DARPA does, but said it would be taking advantage of DARPA’s research.

The Army will be looking for the kind of innovative visionaries who have given us movies like “Star Wars” and some of the “Mission Impossible” films, he said. They will need the kind of people who often go into the gaming industry also, Ostrowski said.

The Army Futures Command will eventually employ 400 civilians and 100 Army personnel in Austin, Ostrowski said. He told the Monitor that there are currently about 40 people working at the UT building downtown.

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