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Army Futures Command to provide $65 million for Texas A&M test facilities

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is flanked by U.S. Army Gen. John Murray and Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp during a Wednesday new conference to announce a $65 million agreement between the Army Futures Command and Texas A&M to develop military technology. [KARA CARLSON/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Continuing to grow its presence in Texas, the Austin-based Army Futures Command said Wednesday it will provide $65 million to the Texas A&M University System to support military research operations on a College Station campus.

The money is part of a multi-million-dollar plan to make Texas A&M’s 2,000-acre RELLIS campus the Army’s main hub for testing and evaluating its future-of-war technologies. (RELLIS is an acronym for the six Aggie core values of respect, excellence, leadership, loyalty, integrity and selfless service.)

The Army Futures Command, a public-private initiative that will lead modernization projects for the Army, is the largest reorganization of the military branch in decades. The Army in 2018 chose Austin as the site for the new center.

The $65 million funding — which is to delivered over the next five years — is the third round of funding related to the project. Previously, the Texas Legislature earmarked $50 million to the project for a military testing site, while Texas A&M provided $80 million to build a research innovation center.

“The Army must modernize to make it to maintain relevance into the future,” Gen. John Murray, commander of the Army Futures Command, said during a news conference at downtown Austin tech hub Capital Factory. “That’s really what Army Futures Command is about and that’s really what this partnership with Texas A&M, and in particular what’s going on on the RELLIS campus, is all about.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he wants to make sure the American military has everything it needs, and that university partnerships help with making that happen.

“Competition — whether it’s between two universities in football season or when it comes to producing the very best tools for our fighting men and women in the United States Army and military — it makes us all better,” Cornyn said.

Texas A&M’s RELLIS campus is growing into a military testing hub for the Army Futures Command. The campus will house the nation’s largest hypersonic tunnel where the military and its partners will be able to safely conduct tests. It will also host a combat development center, which breaks ground this month. Both are slated for 2021 completion. The campus will also be used to research laser weaponry, materials for withstanding hypervelocity blasts, coordinated air and ground vehicles and computer networks for autonomous vehicles that share instant battlefield information.

“We believe this is just the beginning and we will certainly dedicate all the resources from Texas A&M to making sure this works to the expectations of Sen. Cornyn and the Army Futures Command,” said Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp.

The facility will focus on the future of warfare, and look to make technology ready for anything that soldier’s might face, even weapons not yet developed. Murray said much of the defense technology being developed will primarily be deterrence, and ideally never used in battle.

“This is not about us. This is about our kids and our grandkids,” Murray said. “It’s about preparing them for a future where hopefully everything we develop at the RELLIS campus and other places will never have to be used.”

Texas A&M is one of three schools with strategic partnerships with Futures Command. The University of Texas is focused on robotics and assured navigation system timing, and Carnegie Mellon University is researching artificial intelligence.


© 2019 Austin American-Statesman