Military personnel are assessing sites on U.S. soil that might serve as facilities for Guantanamo Bay detainees, if Congress allows the detention center’s closure, Pentagon officials told NBC News on Friday.
The White House has said that the Obama administration is in the final stages of drafting a plan to shutter Guantanamo Bay.
The possible move of detainees requires approval from Congress, as does any transfer of inmates to the U.S., since lawmakers would have to change a 2010 law the bans transfers of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S. for any reason.
Congress was notified Thursday that a Pentagon team was set to survey potential sites for Guantanamo Bay detainees, according to a defense official. The site tours will inform “future decisions about possible locations for housing the remainder of the Guantanamo detainees when we are able to close the facility,” the official said.
The team inspected Fort Leavenworth in Kansas on Friday and is planning to tour the naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina, next week, said Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Gary Ross. The team will also look at a number of civilian facilities, Ross said.
“DoD personnel will consider surveying a variety of military and civilian sites to determine their candidacy for holding law of war detainees in a humane and secure manner,” Ross said, adding that the list of potential facilities is “broad.”
“Security and humane treatment are our primary concerns but, cost is also a factor we’re analyzing,” Ross said. “As the population at Guantanamo ages, for example, additional medical expenses are required, and the annual cost of keeping each detainee at Guantanamo goes up,” he added.
“Only those locations that can hold detainees at a maximum security level will be considered,” Ross said. As of June 2015, 116 detainees were housed at Guantanamo Bay.