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Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook on Submission of Guantanamo Closure Plan

Press Operations

Release No: NR-062-16
Feb. 23, 2016
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The Department of Defense formally submitted the administration's plan for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to Congress today.  As the president has stated, responsibly closing the Guantanamo detention facility is a national security imperative. For this reason, among others, Secretary Carter supports the president's commitment to bringing a responsible end to detention at Guantanamo.

Implementing this plan will enhance our national security by denying terrorists a powerful propaganda symbol, strengthening relationships with key allies and counterterrorism partners, and reducing costs.  As the president has said, it "makes no sense" to keep open a facility that "the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit."

The plan provides a way ahead for closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, which will markedly enhance our national security, while continuing to treat all detainees in U.S. custody in a manner that is consistent with international and domestic law. The plan has four primary tenets:

1.      Securely and responsibly transferring to foreign countries detainees who have been designated for transfer by the president's national security team;

2.      Continuing to review the threat posed by those detainees who are not currently eligible for transfer through the Periodic Review Board (PRB);

3.      Identifying individualized dispositions for those who remain designated for continued law of war detention, including possible Article III, military commission, or foreign prosecutions;

4.      Working with the Congress to establish a location in the United States to securely hold detainees whom we cannot at this time transfer to foreign countries or who are subject to military commission proceedings.

The plan does not endorse a specific facility to house Guantanamo detainees who cannot be safely transferred to other countries at this time. The administration seeks an active dialogue with Congress on this issue and looks forward to working with Congress to identify the most appropriate location as soon as possible.

The plan does include ranges of costs for closure, including low-end and high-end potential one-time costs and recurring costs. It also discusses savings that would be achieved by closure. The savings range reflects differing variables, like location selected and differing options in detention models.

Recurring costs at Guantanamo would be between $65 million and $85 million higher annually than at a U.S. facility. The one-time transition costs would be offset within three to five years due to the lower operating costs of a U.S. facility with fewer detainees. Closing Guantanamo could therefore generate at least $335 million in net savings over 10 years and up to $1.7 billion in net savings over 20 years.

Secretary Carter remains firmly committed to responsibly ending detention operations at Guantanamo Bay, and this plan gives the department an opportunity to do so in a way that is consistent with our interests, laws, and values.  He looks forward to working with Congress on this effort.

The administration recognizes that there are currently statutory provisions restricting the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States and the use of funds to build or modify facilities for such transfers. The administration looks forward to working with Congress to lift those restrictions.

The plan is available here: http://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/GTMO_Closure_Plan_0216.pdf.