GEAR & TECH

Why the Army Futures Command is a great step forward for science

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Gabrielle Weaver)

A new innovation for the United States Military means an innovation for the entire world. Something as simple as the creation of the GPS, which started as a DoD project in the 70s, quickly became one of the most useful quality-of-life tools used in today's society — and this isn't the first (or last) time military tech landed in the hands of civilians.

A large portion of the government's tech eventually trickles down to the people. Recently, the Army established an entire command unit dedicated to research and development, called the Army Futures Command (AFC). Everything about this newly-formed group of soldier-scientists seems like it can only mean great things for moving science — and society at large — forward.


Of course, they'll be developing new weapon systems (technology that will likely not trickle down) that will give America the fighting edge it needs on the battlefield, but it goes much further than that. The AFC will be working on projects that range from computer technologies to advanced medicine and beyond — anything that will aid future soldiers.

While integrating lasers into anti-missile defenses to detonate incoming projectiles from hundreds of miles away is going to be a game-changer for warfare, they're also taking a serious crack at the Holy Grail of computer engineering: quantum computing. To put it at simply as possible, quantum computing is having a computer use atomic particles to compute instead of 1s and 0s and, theoretically, this technology will instantly increase the potential for computing power a thousandfold. If the ACR can figure it out, the U.S. government and, subsequently, the American civilian tech industry, will make unbelievable leaps forward.

And that's not hyperbolic to say. It's actually vastly underselling the mind-boggling capabilities of quantum computing.

(U.S. Army photo by Jhi Scott)

The primary focus of the AFC is and will always be increasing a soldier's combat readiness. Based in Austin, Texas, it will employ both civilian and soldier innovators. The AFC and its Army Application Laboratory (AAL) are designed to be a place where inventors can create what hasn't already been recognized as an official priority.

And even when an invention doesn't revolutionize technology, the road that led them there is valuable. Adam Jay Harrison, the USAFC Innovation Officer, said at a conference for potential innovators that "at the end of the day, 90 percent of what we do ain't going to work, but 100 percent of what we do should be informing somebody's decision."

This kind of open environment and ease of access to funding gives the inventive minds of the U.S. a chance to create anything they can imagine — as long as it helps Uncle Sam. That level of trust in its scientists is unheard of in the academic world and it'll be the cornerstone of the Army Futures Command.

The AFC is on track to be fully operational by September 2019. And I, for one, can't wait to see what kind of insane designs will come out of it.

"You say you can put a laser on an Apache? Shut up and take my money."

(Department of Defense)