AUSTIN, Texas — As Sen. John McCain’s family announced that the ailing veteran is stopping treatment for brain cancer, the Army paid tribute Friday at the opening of a new warfare modernization headquarters in Texas that he played a driving role in creating.
"None of this would be happening without someone who's not here today, and that's Sen. John McCain, an American hero," said Gen. Mark Milley, the Army's chief of staff.
The activation of the Futures Command in the downtown heart of tech-savvy Austin came just hours after McCain’s family said in a statement that the Senate Armed Services chairman had surpassed expectations for survival but that the progress of the disease and McCain’s age “render their verdict.” McCain turns 82 next week.
The longtime Arizona senator and Navy veteran has been battling brain cancer since last year.
McCain's condition worsened last fall and the Arizona Republican has been in his home state since December.
Two members of McCain’s staff attended the ushering in of what the Army says amounts to its most significant restructuring in more than 40 years. The command is tasked with modernizing everything from combat vehicles to weapons and helping soldiers adapt to emerging threats from powers such as China and Russia.
Among the first signature initiatives that should come out of the command in the next few years, Army leaders say, is new optical headwear for soldiers that can display maps or simulate missions.
Milley and other Army leaders described McCain, a former Navy pilot who was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years, as a guiding force in making the command a reality. Discussions on establishing a Futures Command began about two years ago.
McCain, a long-term survivor of the deadly skin cancer melanoma, underwent surgery in July 2017 to remove a blood clot in his brain after being diagnosed with an aggressive tumor called a glioblastoma.
“I wish he could be here. I know from talking to Gen. Milley that he was key,” said Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn. “I know that he would love to be here and be pleased.”
About 500 people are expected to work at the command, most of whom will be civilians. The command for now will operate out of the University of Texas System’s new downtown headquarters that is surrounded by nearby startups and tech incubators. The Army says it wanted to tap into that workforce.