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Operational geography in the French Gendarmerie


A military force counting over 100 000 men, the French Gendarmerie Nationale ensures the security of people and goods over 95% of the national territory.Territorial appropriation and the meshed layout of the institution have been partly instrumental in controlling the territory for over three hundred years.These procedures are akin to geographical and geopolitical notions. However, regarding geography, the Gendarmerie Nationale has no structure or doctrine to offer. The case stands thus: the Gendarmerie is ignorant of what it could gain from geography. While the Gendarmerie belonged with the Ministry of Defense, it enjoyed, for decades, the support provided by the geographic structures of the armies, one grounded on paper maps and the teaching of topography. The situation did not hold out against both the technical revolution in geography and the evolution of the Gendarmerie.Computerization, digital cartography and geospatial information came in, overturning usages. The fact is that geographic analysis has remained crude, whereas the use made of it for statistical purposes has availed itself of advanced technology, an illustration of a loss of the Gendarmerie’s mastery of geography as applied to operations. The reality of field engagement has, in recent years, brought about a fresh impetus. New tools for both terrain analysis and geospatial information have been developed internally to cope with the challenges of home security. A brittle situation: the Gendarmerie is now becoming aware of the opportunities offered by a new use of geography.

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