After the failed August 1991 coup attempt in Russia, defense specialists identified the need for an institution such as the Marshall Center. The U. S. European Command began to develop 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 Gen. Colin Powell to use the facilities of the former U.S. Army Russian Institute to create a European center for security studies in order to rapidly develop opportunities to work with European and Eurasian defense establishments.
He 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 DOD Directive 5200.34 in November 1992, establishing the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies as an element of EUCOM under the authority, direction and control of the commander-in-chief, EUCOM. The Marshall Center became a German-American partnership when a memorandum of agreement was signed on December 2, 1994, between headquarters EUCOM and the German Ministry of Defense.
EUCOM Commander in Chief Gen. John M. Shalikashvili hosted the June 5, 1993 ceremony officially dedicating the Marshall Center in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The center was given 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.
The facilities of the Marshall Center encompass both the Sheridan and Artillery Kasernes. Sheridan Kaserne, originally named Jaeger Kaserne, was built in 1937 to house German military troops. The U.S. Army first used the installation in 1945 as a prisoner-of-war camp for officers. The headquarters of the First Mountain Division of the new German Federal Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) was located on the Kasernes from 1960 to 1992. The installation became home to the Garmisch U.S. military community, the headquarters of the Armed Forces Recreation Center and the former USARI in May 1964. In June 1992, the facilities transferred to the newly formed George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.
On June 11, 2003, the Marshall Center celebrated its 10th anniversary. U.S. 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 the festivities.
Since its dedication, the Marshall Center has addressed the most important security issues confronting Europe, Eurasia and North America through its resident and outreach programs. In keeping abreast of 21st century security challenges, the Marshall Center has continued to expand its offerings, adding three new resident courses since 2004 and focusing on the need for international, interagency and interdisciplinary cooperation in addressing those challenges.