Army Futures Command has chosen Austin Community College as the home base for its new Software Factory training initiative.
Futures Command — which is based in Austin — announced plans for the soldier-led software unit in July. The unit will act as a “train-with-industry” pipeline to teach soldiers and civilians how to solve military problems using cloud technology and software, as well as to help develop technology for the Army.
Futures Command is a public-private initiative that leads modernization projects for the Army. The military chose Austin for its headquarters in 2018, as part of one of the largest reorganizations of the military branch in decades.
Futures Command’s Software Factory will be at ACC’s Rio Grande Campus in downtown Austin, just down the street from the Futures Command headquarters. It will stretch across a 26,500 square-foot space, and include shared spaces for Futures Command staff and ACC students to interact.
ACC Chancellor Richard Rhodes said the partnership will develop “leaders of the future” through education from ACC, leadership and problem solving development from the Futures Command, and business, industry and corporate relationships.
“When we take a look at what are the problems that are facing our nation today, a lot of it has to do with technology. It has to do with problem solving. It has to do with leadership,” Rhodes said. “When we can put those together in a collaborative environment like this is going to be, there’s no better place for soldiers to develop, and there’s no better place for students to get the right skill sets necessary to be productive in changing the future of our country.”
ACC was chosen after a nationwide search, according to the military. The new software unit will utilize the school’s computer science and information technology programs, and also offer specialized training for new technologies including data science and artificial intelligence. The curriculum will be developed by ACC and Futures Command and include support from outside software companies.
The Software Factory is expected to welcome its first cohort of about 30 soldiers and civilians in January, and add a second cohort that following summer.
Futures Command soldiers and staff will also be able to earn credits through ACC, including towards a recently added a bachelor’s degree program in software development.
Sue Goodyear, executive deputy to the commanding general at Army Futures Command, said the Software Factory will be “a really great building block for us to keep pace with modern technology.”
“The Army tends to think internally a lot. This allows us to branch out and learn the same way that the Austin Community College student population is learning and then partner with them,” Goodyear said.
The Software Factory unit will be led by Army Maj. Vito Errico, special assistant to the commanding general of Futures Command, and Maj. Jason Zuniga.
“Modern software development is not something that an individual does in a corner with headphones on anymore. Instead, now it’s about teamwork. It’s about how you function as a team to scope problems and code solutions to those problems. You can’t do it without a collaborative space, and ACC is absolutely a collaborative space,” Errico said in a written statement.
The Software Factory is part of a suite of programs Futures Command is pioneering this year focused around modernization across its software development and artificial intelligence ecosystem. The concept will be the first of its kind for the Army. The Department of Defense and Air Force have dozens of their own software factories.
Army Futures Command already works with technology companies locally, as well as with universities, including the University of Texas and Texas A&M to study and develop new technology. It also has a digital talent initiative at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Futures Command said in July the Software Factory will compliment that initiative.
In Austin, in addition to its downtown headquarters, Futures Command has a working space in Capital Factory, of Austin’s biggest incubator spaces, with the goal of being a public facing space for the military to link with startup companies and entrepreneurs.
Austin has also seen accelerated growth of its defense technology ecosystem since Futures Command chose the city for its headquarters. In August, defense technology companies BAE Systems and Abaco Systems announced expansions to their Austin workforce and facilities. Both companies work with the Department of Defense.