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National Security Brief: Guantanamo Has So Far Cost U.S. Taxpayers $5 Billion

By Ben Armbruster

"National Security Brief: Guantanamo Has So Far Cost U.S. Taxpayers $5 Billion"

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) recently revealed that it costs the American taxpayers nearly $3 million per detainee to keep the prison at Guantanamo Bay open and running, or half a billion dollars annually. That figure is more than double what the Miami Herald calculated in 2011 when it reported that it costs around $800,000 per detainee, per year when the paper dubbed the prison “arguably the most expensive prison on earth.”

In total, the Herald calculates that since it opened in 2002, the Guantanamo prison has cost the U.S. more than $5 billion:

gitmo herald

Gitmo officials explain how the costs break down:

Navy Capt. Robert Durand said the $2.7 million per prisoner figure apparently represents “fully loaded costs” of maintaining what is today a 2,000-strong staff at the sprawling detention center zone where 166 captives are confined to seven different lockups — including the hospital and psychiatric wards. [...]

One way to reach that figure, said Durand, would be a “soup to nuts” accounting, including contractor costs as well as possibly the salaries and benefits of the National Guard and Reserve forces who make up about half of the 1,700 uniformed troops working at the prison — mostly U.S. Army military police and infantry troops.

By contrast, the Federal government pays around $70,000 per inmate, per year in a maximum security prison and an average of $30,000 across all federal prisons.

“Do the math, 166 prisoners, $454 million. We are spending $2.7 million per year for each a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said at a hearing on closing Gitmo last week. “hat does it cost to put a prisoner and keep them in the safest and most secure prison in America in Florence, Colorado? $78,000 a year against $2.7 million that we’re spending in Guantanamo.” He continued:

This would be fiscally irresponsible during ordinary economic times, but it’s even worse when the Department of Defense is struggling to deal with the impact of sequestration, including the furloughs and cutbacks and training for our troops. Every day, the soldiers and sailors serving at Guantanamo are doing a magnificent job under difficult circumstances.

Earlier this year, when reports surfaced that the U.S. military would need an additional $200 million to renovate the prison (a figure that is apparently included in the revised costs), Reuters gave some examples of some other ways that money could be spend, including “funding for nearly seven states to help serve home delivered meals to the elderly.” Reuters adds, “the cost of four inmates represents the cost of training an Air Force fighter pilot.”

In other news:

  • The Wall Street Journal reports: The Justice Department acknowledged for the first time in a terrorism prosecution that it needs to tell defendants when sweeping government surveillance is used to build a criminal case against them.
  • USA Today reports: The nation’s newest combat veterans — those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan — say the biggest challenge facing their generation is suicide, according to a survey by the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
  • The New York Times reports: The United Nations’ food agency said Tuesday that it might not be able to meet its goal of aiding three million Syrians in July.
  • The Times also reports: The number of civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan rose by 23 percent in the first six months of 2013, according to a United Nations report on civilian casualties, reversing a decline last year and signaling the challenge Afghan forces face as they take over all combat duties from American soldiers.
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