The Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory was founded in 1961 to address the need for further research about working and living in cold regions of the world. It is overseen by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which specializes in engineering and environmental research and development for the United States Military. While the primary focus of the lab is potential military applications for the research carried out there, some of the discoveries made can also be applied to the civilian world.
The headquarters of this laboratory is in Hanover, New Hampshire, on land leased from Dartmouth College. Branches are also located in Alaska and Vermont, to carry out additional research. In addition to being located in cold regions which lend themselves to research, the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory also has a number of specialized labs which can create extremely cold temperatures and intense conditions which are associated with cold regions of the earth.
There are a number of focuses for the research carried out by the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. One of the most important is creating and maintaining infrastructure such as buildings and roads in cold environments. The laboratory also looks at maneuverability in cold regions, specializing in developing vehicles and other equipment which can function in extreme temperatures to support potential military operations. For active militaries, mobility is key to success, and forms a vital part of troop support.
The lab also examines environmental issues. It undertakes terrain studies and also looks at environmental problems which are unique to cold parts of the world. With growing concerns about environmental and contamination being brought to the attention of the military, these issues are also studied. There are unique challenges to environmental remediation in extreme environments, and the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory is attempting to surmount those. Since the primary site has officially been designated a Superfund due to military contamination, scientists do not have to travel far from the lab to research and practice environmental assessment and cleanup.
As can be seen, much of the lab's work looks specifically at issues within the context of the military, but it can also be applied to civilian life as well. Equipment developed by the lab is used in Antarctica and the North Pole, for example, by a variety of people and nations. As with other Corps of Engineers operations, the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory plays a crucial role in maintaining American military strength and versatility.