Democrats Make a Fiscal Case for Closing Guantánamo

The Editors | July 29, 12:52 pm
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The United States has spent nearly $5 billion on detention operations at Guantánamo Bay since the facility was established in 2002, according to new Pentagon data released by Democrats on the House Armed Services Committe. The fiscal 2013 cost will be $454 million for a detainee population of 166, which works out to $2.7 million per detainee this year. Another $443 billion has been requested for next year.

More than a third of the $4.8 billion spent on the facility so far has been for personnel costs, both military and civilian. Another $772 million has been for military commissions and legal reviews. The largest amount, just over $2 billion, has been for operations and maintenance, including buildings, computers and closed-circuit TVs for the courtroom.

The figures were detailed in a late June letter to Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the senior Democrat on Armed Services, who had asked the Defense Department for a breakdown of costs. The letter was made public by Democrats ahead of a July 24 Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the implications of closing Guantánamo, at which Smith testified.

Democrats making a fiscal case for closing the facility often compare the cost of Guantánamo to that of the federal prison system, which houses more than 200,000 inmates for less than $7 billion a year — roughly $31,000 per prisoner. At the Judicary subcommittee hearing, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, who recently visited Guanánamo, cited the cost of keeping an inmate in a federal maximum-security prison at $78,000 per year.

Every year since 2009, Congress has enacted a ban on using appropriated funds to transfer Guantánamo detainees to the United States and has placed restrictions on transfers to other countries.