"For the past 60 years, the NATO Defense College has been at the heart of NATO’s successful efforts to safeguard our freedom and security and to spread stability," the Secretary General said.
The NATO Defense College was founded in 1951 by General Dwight D Eisenhower, NATO’s very first Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR), as a major centre of education, study and research on transatlantic security issues.
His aim was to found an institution which could contribute to the effectiveness and cohesion of the Alliance.
"Since the day this College was founded, it has been NATO’s foremost academic centre. For almost as long as NATO itself, the College has helped to shape generations of officers for the highest levels of servce," the Secretary General said.
Looking ahead, the Secretary General identified two key issues which are likely to shape the College's work over the coming years: the evolution of NATO's partnership policies, and supporting reforms in North Africa and the Middle East.
"I could even imagine a new generation of officers from a democratic, post-Qadhafi Libya attending courses on civil-military cooperation at this very College. And I would hope to see that sooner rather than later," Rasmussen said.
To mark the anniversary, President Napolitano inaugurated a Historical Wall commemorating the first six decades of the College's life.
The President and the Secretary General also discussed current NATO issues, including operations in Afghanistan and Libya. Italy plays an important role in both operations.
The Secretary General also held talks with Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa.
"I very much appreciate Italy's contributions to NATO operations. Italy is a staunch ally, and I appreciate our fruitful cooperation," the Secretary General said.