How city planning is like designing new missiles…and not because it’s a blast

single-meta-cal August 31, 2018

One of the parts of my job as Mayor I enjoy most is getting out of the office and meeting with groups around the community. Each occasion allows me to learn something new about our residents and businesses. With the wealth of talent and innovation in Huntsville, it can be particularly illuminating when visiting Redstone Arsenal.

During a recent visit to Redstone, I was invited to give a speech at the Program Executive Office Missiles and Space (PEO-MS) Precision Fires Rocket & Missile Systems office. PEO-MS is critically important for the warfighter. It provides centralized, full spectrum management for Army Air and Missile Defense and Tactical Missile Programs as well as selected Army Space programs.

You might recognize some of the products PEO is responsible for: Javelin (a should-fired missile), TOW,  HELLFIRE, and a variety of radar and battle command systems. They are also responsible for a number of joint programs with different branches of the military such as the Air Force and Navy as well as with many different countries.

We also have to recognize that if we get caught up too much in the present, we take our eye off the future.”

With a number of modernization efforts underway, PEO-MS is always thinking about what the future needs of the warfighter will be in what they call multi-domain combat (air, land, cyber). After getting a question from one of their team members about our focus and vision as an administration, I can see how developing and fielding missile systems is a lot like municipal government.

Like PEO-MS, the City of Huntsville has a number of needs that merit our attention: public safety, roads, land use and many others, but we also have to recognize that if we get caught up too much in the present, we take our eye off the future. We’ve seen in many communities that lack of forward thinking leads to unintended consequences (have you tried to drive in Nashville or Atlanta?).

Keeping your eye on the future ensures you take the proper steps today to set the conditions for success. That’s why I always ask people what they are reading or what they think about new technology. I remember 10 years ago hearing Gen. Hoss Cartwright, Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talking about cybersecurity. We put the team together that eventually became Cyber Huntsville. Now Huntsville is known nation-wide for its capabilities in cybersecurity.

Talking with executives in Research Park led to the push to ensure broadband access across Huntsville. Now we are a Gig City with Google Fiber, AT&T, Comcast and many others bringing high-speed internet to residents and businesses across Huntsville. At the latest Space and Missile Defense Symposium, hypersonics and directed energy were the hot technologies. How will Huntsville play a role in that? We have recruited a company that focuses on nuclear thermal propulsion. What does that mean for NASA and commercial space?

Our planners are focusing on what road networks and parking will look like with the advent of autonomous vehicles. Public safety personnel are utilizing new technologies to keep our citizens safe and looking at where we need to deploy assets.  The City’s urban and economic development team is looking at the future of retail and new industries to attract and places to live and work. Our school system is looking at ways to be more relevant for the future in career and college readiness programs.

Making sure we meet the needs of today while also focusing on what the future holds…it’s what PEO-MS does and it’s what we do as a City each and every day.

Photo: Colonel Chris Mills welcomes Mayor Battle to Precision Fires Rocket & Missile Project Office on Redstone Arsenal