Washington, DC – The wartime prison at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, must close in a responsible manner, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today (August 20), telling journalists that as long as the prison remains open, “it will remain a rallying cry for jihadi propaganda.”
“Taxpayers are paying too high a financial price to keep it open,” Carter said, “and closing the facility should not be left to the next president.”
DoD will work with the White House’s national security team and with Congress on how to handle the prison’s two groups of detainees, Carter said. One group of about 50 prisoners has been deemed to be eligible or could be eligible for transfer to other nations, the secretary added. “but only in a way that mitigates the threat that these detainees might pose to the security of the United States.”
Transferring those prisoners involves complicated negotiations with international partners and extensive consultations with the leaders of the national security and legal organizations and final approval by me, Carter said, noting that he has final approval authority.
“We do this carefully — we do it deliberately,” he said. “I’ve approved the transfer of several detainees and … will continue to do so when appropriate.”
Teams Assess Placement of Other Detainees
The second group of detainees is not eligible for transfer, the secretary said, and should remain in law-of-war detention. “I, therefore, want to complete a responsible, realistic and security-focused plan for an alternative defense detention facility in the United States for that second population.” he added.
Carter said he recently directed DoD assessment teams to evaluate alternative detention sites and costs to make other facilities suitable for holding the second group.
While the teams have looked at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and will visit Charleston, South Carolina, other sites will be considered so that DoD, the White House and Congress can “chart a responsible way forward and a plan so that we can close the detention facility at Guantanamo and this chapter in our history once and for all,” the secretary said.
Trailblazer Women Graduates
Moreover, Secretary Carter said that earlier in the day he had congratulated the soldiers including two women, who will be graduating from the Army Ranger School tomorrow and earning the Ranger tab.
The women who passed through the Army’s elite leadership proving ground are trailblazers, Carter said.
“Like every Ranger serving today, help lead the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” Carter said, and called Ranger school graduation a credit for any man or woman who endures its intense training and curriculum.
The secretary noted that the military services are due to provide their reports October 1 requesting any exceptions to the policy that opens combat jobs to women. Carter said he will make the final determination on that issue by the end of the year.
Turning to the defense budget, Carter reminded journalists that 41 days remain until a National Defense Authorization Act must be passed.
“To build the force of the future — the one our warfighters, our taxpayers and our nation deserves — we need budget certainty,” he said.
The Defense Department needs to be back on a multiyear budgeting plan, Carter said, warning against continuing to operate on continuing resolutions. If a continuing resolution results by the end of September, he added, it will be the seventh consecutive year for such a budget and “would have essentially the effect both in dollars and authorities of sequester.”
“This is no way to run a department strategy,” the secretary said. “Strategy isn’t a one-year-at-a-time thing. Aircraft carriers are not something you build in a year. Our troops, our force — they deserve to know where things are going.”
He added that “people around the world might get a misleadingly diminished view of the United States by seeing this budget drama play out year in and year out.”
The secretary said he continues to hope for a consensus behind a multiyear budget and that a presidential veto, a continuing resolution or a second round of sequestration spending cuts won’t be necessary. “These things are no good for the country,” he noted.