When Guantanamo Bay receives its 21st commander later this year, he will inherit many of the same challenges his predecessors faced: moldy buildings; an enormous work force; and elderly, infirm prisoners, The New York Times reports.
The mission at the Cuban detention facility has cost $7 billion over the years and is stuck in a cycle of applying short-term fixes to long-term problems, ultimately leading to costly delays.
Plans to house lawyers assigned to the 9/11 case at Camp Justice have been shelved until late next year, the Times reports, while the military court compound battles fungus that has invaded a new $10 million tiny-house village being assembled there.
Citing court testimony, the news outlet reports that an MRI medical imaging device on the base experienced a "catastrophic failure" due to neglect during the pandemic. While the military now aims to lease one, the process of obtaining it could take months.
Elsewhere on the base, construction of a $115 million dormitory meant to quarter soldiers assigned to the prison is a year behind schedule. Forty-one guards and civilians are employed for each detainee.
In the 21 years since the George W. Bush administration shipped the first prisoners to the remote southeast Cuban outpost following Sept. 11, 2001, not much has changed in the way the facility functions, according to the Times. A crude, impermanent mission, Guantanamo Bay is still being run "expeditionary style," as the military says.
"At Guantanamo, they continually put Band-Aids on instead of coming up with realistic solutions," retired Brig. Gen. John G. Baker told the outlet. Baker oversaw military defense teams at Guantanamo as a Marine lawyer for seven years.
Detainee operations there suffer "in some respects from some of the same problems we had in Iraq and Afghanistan, where planning was too often the length of a deployment cycle," he said. "There’s continually a temporary mindset to what has become a permanent problem."
So far, the mission has housed 780 detainees and tens of thousands of soldiers on mainly yearlong tours of duty, costing $7 billion. Each of the 36 detainees still incarcerated at Guantanamo costs $13 million a year, with no end in sight, according to a tally from the Times.
The high cost of the mission can be partly attributed to the huge rotating staff at Guantanamo, which has suburban-style neighborhoods, a community hospital, hotels, bars, a K-12 school, and 6,000 residents.
The sporadic nature of planning for a detention operation that President Barack Obama pledged to close and President Donald Trump swore to fill has also created problems, according to the Times.
Initially, the Bush administration brought it 780 detainees before later reducing the population to approximately 240. The Obama administration then found places for about 200, but Congress blocked efforts to transfer the remaining prisoners to facilities in the U.S.
Thirty-six detainees are at Guantanamo today, according to the Times.
In March, The Washington Post reported that lawyers for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and four other men accused of being his accomplices were negotiating potential plea deals with prosecutors.
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