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Pentagon wants $450m for Guantanamo

Budget request calls for $200m to go towards military construction to upgrade temporary facilities at the prison.

Last Modified: 22 May 2013 00:07
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Since his inauguration in January 2009, US President Barack Obama has pushed for shutting the prison [AFP]

The Pentagon is asking Congress for more than $450 million for maintaining and upgrading the Guantanamo Bay prison that President Barack Obama wants to close.

New details on the administration's budget request emerged on Tuesday and underscored the contradiction of the president waging a political fight to shutter the facility while the military calculates the financial requirements to keep the installation operating, AP news agency reported.

The budget request for the fiscal year beginning October 1 calls for $79m for detention operations, the same as the current year, and $20.5m for the office of military commissions, an increase over the current amount of $12.6m. The request also includes $40m for a fiber optic cable and $99 million for operation and maintenance.

The Pentagon also wants $200m for military construction to upgrade temporary facilities. That work could take eight to 10 years as the military has to transport workers to the island, rely on limited housing and fly in building material.

The facility at the US naval base in Cuba currently holds 166 prisoners, and hunger strikes by 100 of them over their indefinite detention and prison conditions prompted Obama to renew his effort to close Guantanamo.

'Not necessary'

The president is expected to discuss the future of the facility in a speech on counterterrorism on Thursday.

"Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe," the president said at a White House news conference last month. "It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed."

Since his inauguration in January 2009, Obama has pushed for shutting the prison, signing an executive order for closure during his first week in office. He has faced resistance in Congress with Republicans and some Democrats repeatedly blocking efforts to transfer terror suspects to the United States.

The law that Congress passed and Obama signed in March to keep the government running includes a longstanding provision that prohibits any money for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States or its
territories. It also bars spending to overhaul any US facility in the US to house detainees.

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