Policy & Strategy

DOD: Gitmo costs in 2013 to top $450M

The cost to run the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in 2013
is $454 million — a figure significantly higher than previous estimates,
according to a new Pentagon assessment.

The newest price tag, which was sent to the House Armed
Services Committee by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, will fuel Democratic
arguments that Guantánamo is too expensive to continue holding detainees.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced the new cost assessment at a Senate hearing to examine closing the
prison, held to ramp up congressional support for shuttering
the facility.

“This is a massive waste of money,” Feinstein said.

{mosads}Hagel sent Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on
the House Armed Services Committee, the three-page Pentagon assessment that
outlined costs to run Guantánamo over the past decade.

The assessment, obtained by The Hill, said that the U.S.
government has spent $4.7 billion to run the prison since 2002.

Smith and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) appeared in the upper chamber Wednesday to testify at the Senate’s Guantánamo hearing.

Wednesday’s Judiciary subcommittee hearing, chaired by Durbin, is the first congressional hearing
on closing the prison since 2009, when President Obama first pledged to close Guantánamo.

Obama vowed to revamp White House efforts to close the facility
this year, and said he would resume detainee transfers to third countries.

But there remains congressional opposition to moving
detainees out of the facility, and there have been multiple votes this year
where lawmakers voted to prevent moving detainees onto U.S. soil or to Yemen, one of the countries where Obama wants to restart transfers.

Both Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy
(D-Vt.) and Feinstein joined Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing to express their
opposition to keeping the prison open.

“For over a decade, the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo
has contradicted our most basic principles of justice, degraded our
international standing and, by itself, has harmed our national security,” Leahy
said. “It is shameful that we are still debating this issue.”

Hitting on the cost issue, Durbin said that it would be much cheaper to hold Guantánamo prisoners in a federal supermax prison, saying the cost was $78,000 per prisoner at a supermax facility compared to $2.7 million per detainee at Guantánamo.

“This would be fiscally irresponsible during normal economic times, but it is even worse when the Defense
Department is struggling to deal with the impact of sequestration,” Durbin said in his opening statement.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the ranking member on the Judiciary
subcommittee, defended Guantánamo, saying there was no alternative for keeping the
terrorists who are held there.

“Until we are presented with a good viable strategy for what
to do with terrorists who would work night and day to murder innocent
Americans, I have a hard time seeing how it is responsible to shut down our
detention facilities and send these individuals home, where they almost surely
would be released and almost surely would return to threaten and kill more
Americans,” Cruz said.

Tags Adam Smith Chuck Hagel Dianne Feinstein Dick Durbin Patrick Leahy Ted Cruz
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