The idea of a NATO Defense College originated from General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe, who identified very early on the need for a new international institution with a unique educational mission.
On 19 November 1951, the NATO Defense College opened its doors to Course 1 in Paris.
In 1966, France withdrew from the Alliance's integrated military structure and the College moved to Rome where it continues to fulfil its mission.
On 10 September 1999, the new College building, twice the size of the old one, was inaugurated in the Military City of Cecchignola, 2 km. from the former site.
On 25 September 2001, the NATO Defense College celebrated its 50th Anniversary and hosted the 48th Annual Conference and Seminar of the Association of Anciens.
In 2009, the NATO Defense College celebrated the 60th Anniversary of NATO and the College's 10th year in Cecchignola.
In 2011, the NATO Defense College celebrated its 60th Anniversary: "60 Years Educating Leaders".
In 2016, the NATO Defense College celebrated its 65th Anniversary and the College's 50th year in Rome: "50 Year in Rome, 65 Years Serving NATO".
In 2021, the NATO Defense College celebrated its 70th Anniversary - "NDC@70: More Relevant than Ever".