WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2016 —
The Defense Department submitted to Congress today the Obama administration's plan for closing the detention facility at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, President Barack Obama said.
Speaking from the White House, Obama said the facility is contrary to the values of the United States.
"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, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
The plan has his full support, Obama said, and reflects how to best go after terrorists and deal with those who are captured. The facility currently holds 91 detainees, he noted.
"With this plan, we have the opportunity finally to eliminate a terrorist propaganda tool, strengthen relationships with allies and partners, enhance our national security, and most importantly, uphold the values that define us as Americans," he said.
The president said the plan calls for U.S. officials to:
-- Continue to securely and responsibly transfer to other countries the 35 detainees out of the 91 who have already been approved for transfer;
-- Accelerate the periodic reviews of remaining detainees to determine whether their continued detention is necessary;
-- Continue to use all legal tools to deal with the remaining detainees still held under law of war detention; and
-- Work with Congress to find a secure location in the United States to hold remaining detainees.
Obama described the plan as an opportunity for progress.
"I'm absolutely committed to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo. I'm going to continue to make the case for doing so as long as I hold this office," he said.
Recurring costs at Guantanamo would be between $65 million and $85 million higher annually than at a U.S. facility, according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.
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, he said.
Therefore, he said, closing Guantanamo could generate at least $335 million in net savings over 10 years and up to $1.7 billion in net savings over 20 years.
The defense secretary is committed to responsibly ending detention operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cook said.
"This plan gives us an opportunity to do so in a way that is consistent with our interests, laws, and values," the spokesman said, adding that Carter looks forward to working with Congress on this effort.