New number-crunching by Democrats campaigning for Guantánamos closure says the Pentagon spends nearly a half-billion dollars a year a whopping $2.7 million per prisoner to operate its offshore prison complex in southeast Cuba.
The figure is by far the largest per-prisoner cost ever calculated and apparently, for the first time, includes troop costs. The ostensibly temporary Pentagon prison has, since it opened in 2002, been staffed largely by troops who received additional training for the assignment. The rotations typically last nine months to a year.
The cost for this year $454.1 million to operate, staff and build at the prison complex comes from a report by the Defense Departments Office of the Comptroller.
It was first provided to Congress on June 27 by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and made public last week.
The report says the Pentagon will have spent $5.242 billion by the end of 2014.
The total costs, however, are likely higher. The accounting does not appear to include the prison camps state-of-the-art headquarters, built in 2004 for $13.5 million, or a secret lockup for ex-CIA prisoners, called Camp 7, whose price tag is considered classified.
In addition, the Justice Department and FBI have devoted staff to detainee operations, and probably the CIA.
Still, at Guantánamo, the prison camps spokesman, 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.
SOUP TO NUTS
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.
In 2011, a Miami Herald report estimated per-prisoner costs at $800,000 a year, dubbing the detention center arguably the most expensive prison on Earth. That figure was based on an accounting by the U.S. Southern Command that totaled $138.8 million in operating costs. Southcom said then it was not possible to account for all costs of staffing the prison. At the time it had 171 captives and a staff of 1,850 troops and contractors.
The Pentagon comptrollers report to Congress shows that the actual cost in 2011 was $521.9 million.
Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said the Department of Defense now estimates the detention centers operating budget at about $150 million a year and considers military construction and troop salaries an entirely different matter. Guantánamos mobilized reservists would likely be serving anyway, perhaps in Afghanistan, he said.
The cost of the various salaries of service members and contractors who would be paid the same regardless of where theyre assigned is not a cost we include in our total Guantánamo detention facility cost approximation, he said.
To be sure, Breasseale said, $150 million a year is hardly a reasonable cost to the American taxpayer and, as the president has stated, it is terrifically inefficient.