The Trump administration’s proposed budget for next year seeks $1.2 million for salaries and operational expenses for the State Department’s Special Envoy for Closure of the Guantánamo Detention Facility — a position created by Barack Obama in his failed bid to close the prison.
The sum — and line item keeping the now vacant job of “The Closer” — is contained in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s proposed 2018 budget that seeks to reduce the overall department budget through deep cuts and attrition of career employees.
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President Donald Trump has said he is keeping the prison of now 41 captives, six of them awaiting death-penalty trials. As a candidate, Trump vowed to grow it, although he has yet to formally adopt a new policy overriding Obama’s Jan. 22, 2009 order to close it.
All a State Department official would say, on condition of anonymity, was that “the Department is currently evaluating the utility of the nearly 70 Special Representatives or Special Envoys that exist within the structure of the U.S. Department of State. We want to make sure that the responsibility for an issue is appropriately placed and aligned with the resources it needs to meet its mission.”
The State Department would not say how many people are left working in the office last run by Ambassador Lee Wolosky, an attorney who returned to private practice after Trump was elected.
But the official said the budget item was intentional. Tillerson’s office did send Congress two pages of errata correcting its original budget proposal — in one instance explaining that it was seeking $16 million not to maintain but to close the U.S. Institute for Peace, while leaving the office of the Guantánamo envoy intact.
The official said there was no “update to the requested amount” of $1.2 million to run the office of the Guantánamo closer, that in the past has negotiated transfer arrangements of cleared captive to other countries. “However the Department of State is currently in the process of developing a comprehensive reorganization plan that will be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget this fall.”