|In the illustration above, former Defense Secretary Les Aspin gives a speech during the opening of the Marshall Center in June 1993. (File photo)|
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Jan. 9, 2013) – The Department of Defense’s regional security studies center here is celebrating its 20th anniversary in June but will commemorate the event throughout the year.
Located on the same garrison as the former U.S. Army Russia Institute, the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies has been in business since 1993 and a German-American partnership since 1994. DOD officials created the center following the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of democratic nations in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, South Caucasus and Central Asia.
Since its creation, the Marshall Center has engaged more than 9,300 people from 140 countries in resident, nonresident and alumni events. The center is now becoming a leaner and more agile “soft-power” tool adjusting to the policy priorities of the DOD, the German ministry of defense, U.S. European Command and other key stakeholders, according to its director.
“The important work we’ve done in the past 20 years gives us the opportunity to continue more promising and relevant work, more efficiently, as we go forward into this new year,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, once a foreign area officer trainee here and now director of the Marshall Center. “Our German-American partnership will continue to make bold, innovative strides in the areas of security cooperation in this region that stretches from the Atlantic to Central Asia.”Still seeing more than 800 participants through multiple iterations of five resident courses each fiscal year, the Marshall Center also reaches out to the region via 50-60 nonresident and 35-40 alumni events. The center is also home for the Army’s Eurasian Foreign Area Officer program and the Partner Language Training Center Europe.
After the failed August 1991 coup attempt in Russia, defense specialists in the United States identified the need for an institution such as the Marshall Center. EUCOM developed proposals to expand defense and security contacts with the emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia in order to positively influence the development of security structures appropriate for democratic states.
In February 1992, a proposal was submitted to then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell to use the facilities of the U.S. Army Russian Institute in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, to create a European center for security studies. It would be the first such Dept of Defense sponsored center in history. The center would be used to develop opportunities to work with European and Eurasian defense establishments. Powell endorsed the plan on March 17, 1992. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz approved the proposal that summer, and the staffs began developing a charter for the proposed center.
Former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney signed a DOD directive in November 1992, establishing the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and put under the control of the EUCOM commander. The Marshall Center became a German-American partnership Dec. 2, 1994, when a memorandum of agreement was signed between EUCOM and the German ministry of defense.
Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, then-EUCOM commander, hosted the June 5, 1993 ceremony officially dedicating the Marshall Center here. Officials gave the center the charter of stabilizing, and thereby strengthening, post-Cold War Europe. Secretary of Defense Les Aspin and German Minister of Defense Volker Rühe were the keynote speakers.
On June 11, 2003, the Marshall Center celebrated its 10th anniversary. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and German Minister of Defense Dr. Peter Struck were the keynote speakers. Nine other ministers of defense from the region also attended.
Since its dedication, the Marshall Center has addressed important security issues confronting Europe, Eurasia and North America through its resident, outreach, and alumni programs. In keeping abreast of 21st Century security challenges, focusing on the need for international, interagency and interdisciplinary cooperation in addressing those challenges, the Marshall Center added four new resident courses since 2004:
- The Program on Security Sector Capacity Building (formerly the Seminar on Security, Stability, Transition and Reconstruction),
- The Seminar on Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction/Terrorism,
- The Seminar on Regional Security, and;
- The Seminar on Transatlantic Civil Security
The center also conducts a twice-annual Senior Executive Seminar, addressing current issues with senior members of military and government throughout the region.
With 20 years of experience in dealing with European and Eurasian security issues, the George C. Marshall Center is embarking on policy priorities centered around emerging defense and security challenges, including all issues cyber, countering terrorism, illicit trafficking, and others.
“This is an amazing place staffed with a tremendous group of people,” Dayton said. “Our stakeholders have challenged us going forward and we’re excited at what we will be able to do on their behalf.”
The German deputy director of the center agreed. “Our German-American partnership enables us to do a great many things in the region that we might not otherwise be able to do,” said retired German air force Maj. Gen. Hermann Wachter. “In celebrating these 20 years, we are looking to the future and how we can affect this region, its future leaders and work with them on the various issues they will encounter as this decade matures.”
Vernon Hodges is the chief of outreach operations and a program director for the center. He said the center’s evolution over time, from one assisting in the transition from dictators to democracy to a premiere security studies focal point, has been amazing to watch.
“We started out small, but even then we had a tremendous impact in the fields of security cooperation,” he said. “It is very exciting to see how our partners have progressed in their quest toward democracy. It is also quite thrilling to see what the Marshall Center has become and what it will continue to do this year and beyond.”