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Identifying Optimum Locations for Tropical Testing of United States Army Materiel and Systems

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This paper is an example of applied military geography focusing on a particular problem arising from the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977. One of the provisions of the treaty required the United States (US) military to completely withdraw from and relinquish its military and government facilities to the Republic of Panama prior to midnight on 31 December 1999. In so doing, the US army turned over to the Panama government all of its military bases, some of which had been used since World War I to test materiel, equipment and systems within a tropical environment. Given its global mission and responsibilities, the US army has a well-established practice of testing its materiel, equipment and systems throughout the entire range of potential operating environments. The US experience in the Pacific in World War II and in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War clearly demonstrated the need to test the performance of new equipment under the harsh conditions found in tropical jungles. Furthermore, since 1960, nearly 75 per cent of all international and internal armed conflicts have been in countries that are totally or partially in the tropics. This paper presents the findings of a scientific panel that was organised to propose a new location for testing US army materiel and systems within a tropical environment. Rather than simply choosing a location analogous to Panama, the panel sought to develop a methodology that could be employed for site selection based on any set of environmental criteria. This study is a classical locational analysis and reconfirms the integrative nature of geography and its utility for solving complex problems that cut across disciplinary boundaries.

Keywords: locational analysis; methodology; military geography; tropical testing

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography & Environmental Engineering, US Military Academy, West Point, New York, USA 2: Terrestrial Sciences, US Army Research Office, North Carolina, USA

Publication date: 2004-03-01

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