WASHINGTON, February 23, 2016 —
The plan submitted to Congress to close the detention facility at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is the best way forward, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said today.
Congress has an opportunity to close the detention facility in a way that maintains U.S. national security, saves taxpayer money, eliminates a terrorist propaganda tool, and strengthens U.S. relations with allies, Cook said at a Pentagon news conference.
Earlier today, the Defense Department submitted to Congress the Obama administration's plan for closing the detention facility.
Complex Legal and Budget Concerns
Closing the facility, which currently holds 91 detainees, is complex and involves legal and budget concerns, Cook explained.
"There are some restrictions put in place by Congress that make this a more difficult challenge," he said. "This is not easy; this has been an ongoing debate in this country for some time."
The plan, among other things, calls for administration officials and Congress to work together to find a secure location in the United States to hold certain detainees. Congress has imposed restrictions that currently prevent the transfer of detainees to the United States.
While the Pentagon does not expect unanimous agreement on the plan, Cook said, it is a "starting point for conversation for members of Congress -- both parties, people with different views on this issue -- where maybe there could be some middle-ground solution that allows this to move forward."
Closing the detention facility will be an ongoing process, Cook said, adding that Defense Secretary Ash Carter believes it is important to resolve the issue before the next administration takes office.
From the White House today, President Barack Obama said he is "absolutely committed" to closing the detention facility. "It undermines our standing in the world. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law," the president said.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)