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SOUTHCOM commander: DoD to 'right-size' staffing at Guantanamo Bay

Admiral Craig S. Faller, Commander, U.S. Southern Command, briefs members of the news media in Washington, D.C. Photo by Marvin Lynchard/Department of Defense
Admiral Craig S. Faller, Commander, U.S. Southern Command, briefs members of the news media in Washington, D.C. Photo by Marvin Lynchard/Department of Defense

March 12 (UPI) -- The Department of Defense is considering reducing the number of staff at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, Pentagon officials said this week.

Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller and Southcom Commander told reporters at a Pentagon press briefing that officials are considering "right-sizing" staffing at the prison to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

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Faller said defense secretary Mark Esper had raised the issue of adjusting the size of operations at the site.

''I think that the way I would look at what we're doing in the detention facility ... is we are right-sizing that. We're making it fit for the task, the purpose and the numbers,'' he said. ''So there'll be savings and a tremendous manpower savings and a cost savings for consolidation on footprint, but it's absolutely the right thing to do. And so I wouldn't look at it as a reduction so much as a re-balance.''

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Faller, who was in Washington, D.C., primarily to testify on Capitol Hill regarding the 2021 defense budget, told reporters the facility has "a heavy guard footprint," in part due to the layout of the detention site.

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The DoD's news release does not include the most number of guards at the prison, but in September 2019, the New York Times reported that 1,800 troops are stationed at the detention center -- or 45 for each man held at the site.

That brings the cost of operating the site to $13 million per prisoner.

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Currently Guantanamo holds 40 men, only one of whom has been convicted of a crime.

Health care alone for Guantanamo detainees cost $4 million in 2019, in part because the remaining population is aging, and experiencing an attendant decline in health.

The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is situated within the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

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Then-President George W. Bush opened the facility in January 2002 following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and his declaration of the War on Terror.

President Barack Obama promised to close the camp during his 2008 campaign. He failed to keep that promise, but did reduce the number of prisoners from 245 to 41 during his administration.

In January 2018, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep the camp open indefinitely, but one prisoner has been released during his administration.

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