President Barack Obama on Tuesday presented a long-awaited plan to Congress to shut down the controversial detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, insisting that keeping the prison open is “contrary to our values.”
“It’s been clear that the detention center at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security,” Obama said from the Roosevelt Room at the White House. “It undermines our standing in the world.”
The plan, which has been on Obama’s agenda since he took office in 2009, calls for up to $475 million in construction costs. The cost would, in part, cover the transfer of some of the remaining 91 detainees to facilities in the United States, but officials say it will ultimately be offset by as much as $180 million per year in operating cost savings.
The Defense Department hopes the plan will convince lawmakers to allow for the transfer of between 30 and 60 detainees to U.S. soil, but it provides few details, and may only further antagonize members of Congress who have repeatedly passed legislation banning any effort to move detainees to the U.S.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of House Armed Services Committee, has said his panel would hold a hearing on a closure plan. But he sent a letter to Obama warning that Congress has made clear what details must be included in any plan and that anything less than that would be unacceptable.
U.S. officials say the plan considers 13 different locations in the U.S., including seven existing prison facilities in Colorado, South Carolina and Kansas, as well as six other locations on current military bases. They say the plan doesn’t recommend a preferred site and the cost estimates are meant to provide a starting point for a conversation with Congress.
Members of Congress have been demanding the Guantanamo plan for months, and those representing South Carolina, Kansas and Colorado have voiced opposition to housing the detainees in their states.
The administration is currently prohibited by law from moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States.