A map of U.S. Army bases in Germany shows them all in central Germany, except one odd base on the Austrian border, far from any operational forces. U.S. Army Garrison Garmisch exists to support an Alpine conference center with a golf course. It is funded by American taxpayers, with all the ultra-expensive support overhead found at every army base. The motto of USAG Garmisch is: "It's Great to Be Here!"
The U.S. Army established resorts after World War II when Germany was in economic chaos. Once Germany recovered, it became difficult to justify expensive resorts like Garmisch. As a result, the Army established a center for Soviet studies at Garmisch. This provided good political cover, until the Soviet Union dissolved. As the Army began closing half its bases in Germany, the Garmisch resort was sure close. However it was a favorite weekend spot for senior officers and a fun place to have conferences, so the "George C. Marshall Center" was created to teach democracy to Eastern European military officers. The U.S. Army Edelweiss ski lodge was built to compliment the nearby golf course. The USA now pays for European officers to visit this resort for a week or so for "conferences" while Army officers in Europe also have "conferences" there.
After over a decade, the Eastern Europeans adjusted to democracy, so the need for the Marshall center is questionable. There is no doubt that this center could host conferences at another Army base in Germany without the overhead required at remote Garmisch, which includes an elementary school. If our Army needs to sponsor conferences, it can use any of the hundreds of large hotels in Europe near U.S. Army bases. There is no need to tie up a hundred American soldiers and employ hundreds of German citizens to support an exclusive resort near the Alps. Garmisch pretends that a NATO school 12 miles away is a tenant of the base, but it operates itself.
The Edelweiss ski lodge may remain if it can operate without a subsidy, but there is no need for the ultra-expensive appendage of a U.S. military base, where 90% of the support costs are to support the base garrison personnel. This closure recommendation will not surprise army officers in Europe, who've been wondering how long their Generals can keep this perk out of the headlines and hidden from Congress. One can argue for an American military presence in Europe, but no one can claim that millions of dollars each year are needed to maintain an exclusive ski resort with a golf course near the Alps.
Carlton Meyer editor@G2mil.com
May 2014 Update