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Over the past 25 years, the focus of military geology at the U.S. Geological Survey has moved away from classical “terrain intelligence” traditionally used by ground forces (e.g., surface construction, trafficability), and toward the strategic assessment of very small areas of the Earth's surface—such as a single underground nuclear test site or foreign underground facility. Along with this change in focus has come a demand for great precision in the remote assessment of rock properties, as the users of geologic data assess the detailed effects of the rock environment on both weapons testing and targeting. The recent opening of the former Soviet Union has provided sources of “ground truth” for evaluating remote assessments of geology made over three decades. These sources have proved the efficacy of making reliable and detailed estimates of foreign geologic environments primarily through the use of published reports and satellite image data. Current U.S. Geological Survey efforts are in two broad fields: geologic support for monitoring treaties limiting nuclear testing and geologic assessments at the sites of underground structures. Nuclear test monitoring at low seismic magnitudes, where many seismic events may occur per day in countries in which nuclear proliferation is a concern, will require the construction of digital geologic data sets that can be used in an operational mode. Recent work in this area includes the assessment of mines and mine blasts as sources of seismicity and the feasibility of constructing large cavities for clandestine testing. Evaluation of underground facilities is also a subject of increasing interest. Without a “nuclear option,” a nation's targeting strategies must rely on a combination of “smart” penetrating weapons and a detailed knowledge of the penetrability and shock-wave propagation of the near-surface materials. Geologic data are also required for many other types of facility monitoring, both remote and on-site.

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