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Army secretary visits RELLIS Campus to check progress at Bush Combat Development Complex
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Army secretary visits RELLIS Campus to check progress at Bush Combat Development Complex

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Army secretary visits RELLIS

Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy speaks during a visit to the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex on the Texas A&M RELLIS campus in Bryan on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. 

Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy visited the RELLIS Campus on Wednesday to view construction that is underway at the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex (BCDC) and talk with Texas A&M University System officials and scholars about the military modernization center.

The BCDC is being built as part of an agreement between the A&M System and Austin-based U.S. Army Futures Command, which is working to modernize the Army’s operations, tactics and technologies. 

“The U.S. Army has been in a transformation over the last 3½ years, moving billions of dollars to modernize signature systems within our formation,” McCarthy said at a news conference following a tour of the construction site. “We have made a lot of progress — a lot of that from research within the various buildings around this wonderful campus, but also for our future.”

The total cost for the BCDC is $200 million, according to an A&M System press release: $85 million from the A&M System, $65 million from the Army Futures Command for research and equipment and $50 million that was designated by the Texas Legislature in 2019 for the Innovation Proving Ground outdoor testing range.

McCarthy also spoke on the importance of a hypersonic and directed energy testing range called BAM, which stands for ballistic, aero-optics and materials. He said BAM would be one of only four locations in the country with its research and testing capabilities, which include long-range precision firing capacity.

“The ambition of that project, if it reaches its goal, could be arguably the best in the country. Hypersonic capabilities are among our number one investment priorities,” McCarthy said. “There are billions of dollars being the U.S. Army alone — let alone the Navy and the Air Force — and that unique capability gives us tremendous reach and lethality to be able to compete … in the event of a conflict.”

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McCarthy said that proximity to Fort Hood and the research capabilities of Texas A&M are among the benefits of having the complex based at the RELLIS Campus. He said the work of the Futures Command is ultimately to bring the private sector, academia and military personnel together in support of soldiers as they serve the country abroad.

“It’s about people. You have some extraordinary men and women that go through this university system,” McCarthy said. “We’re able to bring our soldiers here to conduct research side-by-side with research engineers and have a soldier-centered design.”

The forthcoming complex also will include the Research Integration Center, which will be the command center to direct and evaluate testing on the BCDC grounds and at other facilities; and the Technology Innovation and Modernization Catalyst (TIMC), which, according to a press release, will offer startup space and business services.

“This is really important — not only to the university, not only to the Army — this is really important for our nation,” said Col. Rosendo “Ross” Guieb, who is the first executive director of the BCDC.

The Army announced Austin as the location for the Futures Command in July 2018 and announced then that it would work with A&M and other university systems in the state and the nation.

Officials and members of the Bush family broke ground on the complex Oct. 12, 2019. The Research Integration Center is expected to be completed next August, with the other parts of the complex likely finished by October 2022.

A&M System Chancellor John Sharp told The Eagle that it is part of A&M’s mission of public service to work with the Army on behalf of the nation’s interests. Sharp and McCarthy both praised M. Katherine Banks, Texas A&M’s dean of engineering and the vice chancellor of engineering and national laboratories, for her leadership in bringing the complex to life. Sharp also said there exists a mutual appreciation between McCarthy and the A&M System.

“It was great. He’s a big fan of A&M, and we’re a big fan of his,” Sharp said. “I think what Dr. Banks and the System are building here will eventually — perhaps in short order — be the largest research project in A&M’s entire portfolio in history. Even I have underestimated how big this is going to be. This is a real point of pride with us to develop the best weapons system in the world. It’s going to be developed right here.”

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Texas A&M University’s fall enrollment is 71,109 — a 1,644 student, or 2.4%, increase from last year’s total of 69,465 students.

The figure includes undergraduate, master’s and doctoral-level students in College Station, the Health Science Center and campuses in Galveston and Doha, Qatar.

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