Soldier-led Software Factory Opens in Austin

Soldier-led Software Factory Opens in Austin

Soldiers cutting a ribbon
Photo by: U.S. Army/Mr. Luke J. Allen

Success on the future battlefield against a near-peer adversary lies with the young men and women serving today, the nation’s top general said.

Speaking at the new Army Software Factory in Austin, Texas, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said the coding and computer work being done there is closely tied to the military’s transformation and modernization efforts.

“It has everything to do with modernization, seeing the future and being able to prevent a great-power war, being able to deter wars by having exceptional young people who can see the future, develop the capabilities of the joint force and to lead us into the future,” he said.

Milley and other senior leaders are “a couple of years too old” to do coding and truly see the impact of cyber and space, he said. “We can’t envision it, we can’t make the bridge, … [and] we have to be humble enough to pass the baton off to a younger crew,” he said.

Officials marked the opening of the Army Software Factory, on the Rio Grande campus of Austin Community College, during a ceremony April 15. The first-of-its-kind training pipeline is designed to help soldiers and students rapidly scope and solve real-life problems through advanced software development processes. 

The first cohort began training in January, and new groups of about 30 students—25 soldiers and five Army civilians—will start every six months.

“This is the first time that we’ve had a soldier-led software factory in the military,” Milley said during the ceremony.

Throughout history, the military has relied on its young service members to innovate and move into the future, Milley said. 

In less than a year, Gen. John Pershing went from riding a horse with a couple of regiments in northern Mexico to leading American troops across the ocean for World War I. The leaders at the time “couldn’t grasp the changes that were occurring around them,” Milley said. 

“Previews of the future”—including “tremendous industrialization,” the advent of the telegraph and telephone, the introduction of the automobile and the addition of mechanization in the military—were lost on many leaders, he said.

“What did we do? We stayed shoulder to shoulder and marched across fields and got mowed down by machine guns,” Milley said. “Tens of thousands of people were killed because the people of the day couldn’t envision the future.”

World War I spawned the conditions for World War II, and by 1945, about 150 million people “gave their lives in the slaughterhouse of war, great-power wars,” Milley said.

Those lessons from history resonate today as the Army and the other services try to prepare for the future, he said.

When the Army stood up Army Futures Command, “we didn’t know exactly what road it would go on, we didn’t know exactly where it would lead, but we did know if we empowered young people, if we took off the constraints of bureaucracy, we could unleash human power,” Milley said. “We could create something better for the Army and the joint force in order to have a military that’s capable of deterring any adversary. That is what your ultimate purpose here is all about. It’s to make us, the Army, to make us, the joint force, a better military.”

The nation invests billions of dollars in its military, Milley said. “That’s a lot of money for the taxpayer to spend on us, but it’s not spent for nothing,” he said.

“Why do we do that? It’s to prevent great-power war. It’s to maintain great-power peace,” he said. “It’s to maintain cutting edge and overmatch against any potential adversary.”