Huntsville community wants new Army command to come to the Tennessee Valley

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - As the Army develops a new command, the Army Futures Command, to expedite modernization, Huntsville is hoping the Army headquarters it in the Tennessee Valley.

During a January visit to Redstone Arsenal, Mark Esper, Secretary of the Army, discussed the Futures Command. He said then, "We have an acquisition system right now that has been there for many years, that does a good job. But how do we optimize that system?" He continued during his Redstone visit, "Part of that is, how do we look at a different organizational arrangement? How do we improve the processes? Reduce the paperwork?"

The Army Times reported that Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy explained the kind of place the Army is looking for for the command HQ like this: "This isn’t like a standard basing decision, where we’re moving a brigade combat team somewhere... We needed access to academia and business, and those two kinds of key characteristics. Where the systems engineers, software engineers are.”

Some say that sounds a lot like Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal.

"Naturally, those of us here in the Tennessee Valley think that Redstone Arsenal, The Huntsville/Madison area, would be a perfect location for this Futures Command for a variety of reasons," said John Nerger, a retired Army Senior Executive. "It's a natural fit."

Nerger believes the quality of life here, access to contractors, the nearby commands at Redstone Arsenal including the Army Materiel Command, and the access to a qualified workforce are this area's key selling points.

"We are a competitor. We know we're being looked at," Nerger confirmed. "We're optimistic-- let's say, cautiously optimistic-- that we have a fighting chance."

Other news outlets report cities like Atlanta also vying for the command. The competition, Military.com reported, is between a list of 30 places across the nation.

This Futures Command is still in development, to stand up in the summer of this year. A task force will inform Esper of its recommendations in the coming months. Col. Patrick R. Seiber, U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer of the Army Futures Command Task Force, said in response to our inquiry:

"Regarding your query on Army Futures Command Headquarters, there are multiple locations under consideration and no decisions have been made. The Army Futures Command Task Force stationing team is using a comprehensive set of criteria, such as availability of talent, accessibility, proximity to innovation centers, and quality of life in order to develop a recommendation for senior army leaders. The recommendation is scheduled to be submitted in the next six months. The headquarters will not be fully established in the new location until 2019."

He reiterated that no decisions have been made yet.

"Having been on the inside of similar decisions in the past, I realize the Army closes the windows to give them the ability to make a clear and correct decision," Nerger explained. "They've gathered information, but they won't reveal too much until the end game."

Still, Nerger said Huntsville has allies on its side in the quest for the command. "We have congressional support. We have community support," he noted. Sources in Washington say lawmakers are hopeful that Huntsville is a top contender and have met with Army leadership and the Department of Defense on the modernization issue.

More details about the Futures Command are expected to be revealed in Huntsville next week at AUSA'S Global Force Symposium. Secretary Esper and many other leaders will be present to speak. The theme of the conference is "modernizing and equipping America's Army for today and tomorrow."

"The fact that those leaders are going to be here in the Huntsville community next week, we expect them to talk a great deal about what this command may look like," Nerger explained.

Nerger said even if Redstone Arsenal or the greater Huntsville area are not assigned the new command, this area still has a big part in supporting the Army of the future.

"The Arsenal and the greater community will have a key role to play in helping to shape the future of the Army and shape its modernization efforts," he said.