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World

AFP
July 14, 2018

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US Army picks tech-savvy Austin for new command

WASHINGTON: The US Army has turned to a tech-savvy city in Texas to host a new command aimed at innovating and preparing to fight future wars, officials said Friday.

The Army Futures Command will be established in Austin, the booming capital of Texas that in recent years has transformed into one of America’s hottest cities for the tech and startup industries.

Officials said the new command — to be headed by a four-star general, with a staff of about 500 civilian and military personnel — will ready the US military for future warfare that could include laser weapons for missile defense, hypersonic missiles, robotics and artificial intelligence.

“We are in the midst of a change in the very character of war and we don’t and didn’t have an organization solely dedicated to that,” Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley told reporters.

The new command is set to be up and running by summer 2019.Austin, a left-leaning city in an otherwise largely conservative state, beat out 150 other municipalities and topped a shortlist that also included Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Raleigh in North Carolina.

Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy cited Austin’s relative affordability and its proximity to academia and private-sector talent as key factors in determining its selection.

He also praised the city’s “incubator hubs,” where workers from established corporations and startups share office space.“We will literally have soldiers and army civilians right there with them and they will have their Army emblem over their laptop,” McCarthy said.

The Army’s move into the heart of Austin comes amid a backlash among part of the tech industry against working with the military.

In May, thousands of Google workers signed a petition protesting the firm’s involvement with the military in developing artificial intelligence to make US military drones better at recognizing what they are monitoring.

Google last month said it would not use AI for weapons or to “cause or directly facilitate injury to people,” as it unveiled a set of principles for the technologies.

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