The Texas A&M University System will create a $130 million combat development complex and testing hub for the Army Futures Command at the RELLIS campus in Bryan.
According to a system news release distributed Friday, the A&M System will build a $50 million facility equipped with laboratories, accelerator space and offices for the command on the RELLIS campus. The release said the system plans to invest $30 million in infrastructure improvements to support the new building.
The command, which is headquartered in Austin, is an effort to modernize the U.S. Army and prepare for future challenges and engagements.
Gen. John “Mike” Murray, commanding general for the Army Futures Command, said the command would develop, test and evaluate next-generation technologies from the private sector and universities around the country at RELLIS.
“We are humbled and grateful to the people of Texas, Texas elected leaders, and the Texas A&M University System for the opportunity to further develop our strategic partnership through the establishment of the combat development complex on the RELLIS Campus,” Murray said in a statement. “This effort will certainly prove vital as we work together to discover, develop, and test ideas and concepts that will help our Soldiers, and our future Soldiers, to protect America’s tomorrows — beginning today.”
According to the Austin American-Statesman, Murray announced in July that the Army Futures Command is fully operational, complete with with 24,000 civilians and soldiers in 25 U.S. states and 15 countries. In May, the Futures Command hosted a series of demonstrations of existing technology and equipment, including autonomous combat vehicles and other devices, at RELLIS.
The Texas A&M System Board of Regents will vote Thursday to begin design and construction. A groundbreaking is scheduled for this fall, according to a system release.
The Texas Legislature also appropriated $50 million for a proving ground, which the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station will implement as an outdoor testing area at RELLIS, to be used for analyzing and validating new technologies.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement that the complex strengthens the state’s partnership with the U.S. military and “further establishes” the state as a tech hub.
“I am proud to have worked with the Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker, and the Legislature to secure funding to move this project forward,” Abbott said. “The state of Texas will continue to work with the Texas A&M System and the Army Futures Command to modernize our defense and keep our Armed Forces at the forefront of technological advancement.”The Austin American-Statesman reported Friday that hypersonics and directed energy research will be central to the Futures Command’s presence in the area. A&M plans to build a tunnel at RELLIS for hypersonics research, the Statesman reported.
A&M System Chancellor John Sharp announced the creation of RELLIS, named after Texas A&M’s core values, in May 2016. The work to redevelop the 2,000-acre property, which was once the Bryan Army Air Field, began with an initial investment of about $300 million.
“We consider serving the military of our nation to be the highest of honors and responsibility,” Sharp said. “Also, having the Army Futures Command at RELLIS is a game-changer for that campus and the Brazos Valley area; RELLIS was envisioned as a research dynamo, and the Army’s arrival will speed that up.”
Kathy Banks, Texas A&M’s dean of engineering and the vice chancellor of engineering and national laboratories, told the Austin American-Statesman that Texas A&M plans to hire as many as 25 research engineers within the next year to work alongside the Army.
“Certainly, we are very supportive of Gen. Murray’s decision to make sure that we engage soldiers at every point in the design process,” Banks told the American-Statesman. “To think about testing these designs before they move into full development and manufacturing — that’s very unique.”
The RELLIS campus is home to the Texas A&M System’s transportation and engineering agencies as well as an education complex served by Blinn College and Texas A&M System universities.Army Futures Command is also partnering with the University of Texas System and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.