WEST FORT HOOD, Texas -- A groundbreaking for the Army Test and Evaluation Command's (ATEC) Technology Integration Center (ATIC) Laboratory took place in the U.S. Army Operational Test Command's (USAOTC) footprint here Feb. 1.

The new lab will bring together testers, engineers, analysts and technicians to support test planning, technology selection, and preparation for operational testing, according to John W. Diem, executive director of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command.

Diem said the new lab will help troops get better gear faster, since the new facility will consolidate test data collectors across Fort Hood and will allow better communication with other research facilities across the country.

"Things that folks at home are familiar with -- the Stryker, the Abrams, the Bradley combat vehicles, our unmanned aerial systems, the Apache helicopter -- those are all undergoing major updates and modernization," Diem said.

"This facility -- while it may never be visible to the Soldiers that are downrange -- is a major part of ensuring their equipment is going to work," he added.

Designed to be reconfigurable for a wide variety of uses, the lab can hold up to 150 people who will be looking at the best ways to design operational tests using the latest technology and methods.

It will also have large areas where vehicles and other systems under test can be brought indoors.

Diem said the new ATIC lab will allow USAOTC to reduce common problems of the past with training, experimentation and transferring data between users who need it.

Construction of the $4.6 million facility should be complete January 2019.

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About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command

USAOTC is based at West Fort Hood, Texas and its mission is about making sure that systems developed are effective in a Soldier's hands and suitable for the environments in which Soldiers operate. Test units and their Soldiers offer their feedback, which influences the future by offering input to improve upon existing and future systems that Soldiers will ultimately use to train and fight.