Guantánamo closing: What are the costs?

The details identifying which prisoners will transferred are unclear, but the plan includes extensive relocation and construction costs.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth/US Army/Courtesy via Reuters
A Navy guard patrols Camp Delta’s detainee recreation yard during the early morning at Guantánamo Bay naval base, July 7, 2010. President Obama urged lawmakers on Tuesday to give his plan to close the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a 'fair hearing' and said he did not want to pass the issue to his successor when he leaves the White House next year.

The Pentagon will meet Tuesday’s deadline to give Congress its long-awaited plan to close down Guantánamo Bay, in the administration's last-ditch effort to make good on President Obama's campaign vow to close the controversial detention center.

Mr. Obama delivered a statement outlining the closure of the detention camp in Cuba, Tuesday saying that keeping the facility undermines US national security.

"It has been clear that the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay does not advance our national security – it undermines it," Obama said in a briefing.

"Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values, it undermines our standing in the world."

The administration’s blueprint, which provides more detail about the White House’s plan to move dozens of prisoners to the mainland United States for trial or detention, calls for up to $475 million in construction costs. However, White House officials say that the plan will save as much as $85 million a year in the long run, and allow the Pentagon to offset the one-time transition cost within three to five years, adding that the current annual operating cost of the prison is $445 million.

The details identifying which prisoners will be transferred are unclear, but the report mentions 13 potential facilities, including some that Pentagon officials haven't yet physically surveyed, senior administration officials said.

Obama has taken intermediate steps to close the prison since 2009, including resettling lower-level detainees to countries that meet security conditions, and transferring others to American soil. However the fate of the domestic plan remains uncertain because a statute bans the military from taking detainees from Guantánamo to the United States, and a provision that bars the president from using public funds to transfer detainees to the United States, or construct or modify any facilities in the United States to house them.

Last year, the plan was rejected for being too expensive at a cost of $600 million.

Advocates of closing Guantánamo say the prison has long been a recruiting tool for militant groups and that holding extremists suspected of violent acts indefinitely without charges or trial sparks anger and dismay among US allies.

Opponents, however, warn that moving Al-Qaeda-linked detainees to the US could create security concerns around the new location.

At its highest peak in 2003, Guantánamo held nearly 680 detainees, and 245 when Obama took office. Currently, there are 91 detainees at Guantánamo. Of those, 35 are expected to be transferred this summer.

The rest are either facing trial by military commission or have been determined to be too dangerous to release but are not facing charges. Some can't be charged because of insufficient evidence and some may face future persecution or have been designated for indefinite detention under the international laws of war.

"We've always been very clear about what needs to happen," Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Associated Press. "We're going to continue to transfer detainees to other countries who agree to take them, and take steps to make sure that ... the threat they pose to the US is limited."

This report contains materials from The Associated Press.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.