Guantanamo By The Dollar: Wasteful Spending

The U.S. has spent $500 million upgrading Guantanamo since 2001, according to the first published report on the prison's spending.

Here's some of where the money went:

  • $188,000 for a marquee sign that says "Welcome Aboard"
  • $249,000 for an abandoned volleyball court
  • $296,000 for an unused go-cart track
  • $3.5 million for 27 playgrounds, mostly unused
  • $683,000 to renovate a cafe that sells ice cream and Starbucks coffee
  • $773,000 to remodel a cinder-block building to house a KFC/Taco Bell restaurant.

The point of these expenditures: "[T]o comfort the military personnel and contractors who run detainee operations." Despite the decline in number of detainees (now at 181), the spending continues:

Next up is an expansion of one of the most popular spots on the base: O'Kelly's, an Irish pub. [More...]

How much personnel is required for 181 detainees? According to the Pentagon's website for the Joint Task Force Guantanamo:

Approximately 7,000 active duty service members, retirees, family members, DoD civilians and contractors make up the community of U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The oldest U.S. naval station on foreign soil, the base is home to several tenant commands – the largest of which is Joint Task Force Guantanamo.

Scroll through the pages. It's as if they are advertising for a resort. Here's the entertainment and activities page. Here's the athletics and dining pages (there's even a Pizza Hut.)

Check out their publication, The Wire. For Memorial Day, they flew in a band to play (p.16) and had a grand time at an event headlined "Liberty Barracks Bash, Summer Fun" (p.18.)

Also check out the Navy's Guantanamo Bay Gazette Magazine, especially the classfied ad section on page 7, filled with boats, big screen tv's, even Louis Vuitton bags for sale.

Or this list of activities on page 8.

  • 5 June Free Paintball 1400 Paintball Range
  • 10 June Night Fishing 1900 Marina
  • 11 June World Cup Begins TBD All Centers
  • 12 June Snorkeling Hicacal Beach 0800 Marina
  • 12 June Sunset Kayak to Hospital Pt 1700 Marina
  • 15 June Ping Pong Tournament 1900 Camp America Center
  • 17 June 8 Ball Tournament 1900 Marine Hill Liberty Ctr.
  • 19 June Day Fishing Trip 0600 Marina
  • 24 June Spades Tournament 1900 Marine Hill Liberty Ctr.
  • 26 June Kayak to the Caves 0800 Marina
  • 29 June Ping Pong Tournament 1900 Deer Point Liberty Ctr.

Just more reason to shutter Guantanamo for good as soon as possible.

< Bernie Madoff: Prison Hero | Helen Thomas Retires From Hearst Publications >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Something tells me (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by JamesTX on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:31:02 AM EST
    this is not commensurate with the investments in my local ice cream and Starbucks restaurants. The military lives in an alternate universe when it comes to costs. Tax and spend, tax and spend. Darned liberals.

    And most everything they build (none / 0) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:54:06 AM EST
    is architecturally really really ugly.  It bothers me to pay so much for so much ugly.

    I guess when you (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by JamesTX on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:00:29 AM EST
    consider every structure they build or remodel is actually a "Federal Building", then I understand somewhat everything that has to go into it. It's not like building a tool shed in your back yard. Not to mention I am suspect all the materials have to be shipped from the U.S.

    In order to blow your nose in a Federal Building, you have do a study of tissues, go through a bid process, make sure nobody is allergic to the tissue, make sure the tissue is suitable for all ethnicities and all ability levels, make sure the tissue is supported properly in the tissue retrieval location, make sure the tissue retrieval location is accessible, make sure the tissue retrieval location can be properly maintained and cleaned with the tissue retrieval location cleaning equipment (which has to be stored in the tissue location cleaning equipment storage facility), and so on. It probably runs into the tens of thousands get a nose blown.


    And then, (none / 0) (#22)
    by JamesTX on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:16:04 AM EST
    the tissue retrieval location (TRL) and the tissue retrieval location maintenance storage facility (TRLMSF) would have to undergo a study to determine if a new acronym is needed to distinguish between parts of the TRLMSF which store unused tissues and the parts that store cleaning and maintenance equipment, and discarded tissues. This may require that the TRLMSF acronym actually be discontinued and replaced with two acronymns: Tissue Retrieval Location Maintenance Storage Facility -- Stock and Resupply Center (TRLMSF-SRC), and Tissue Retrieval Location Maintenance Storage Facility -- Cleaning and Maintenance Equipment (TRLMSF-CME). Each would have to have their own feasibility study and budget, as well as their own standard operating procedures and personnel. Then there arises the question of how many TRLs can be supported by one TRLMSF-SRC and one TRLMSF-CME. Of course, it could be possible...

    A dear friend of mine is still a federal employee, and I worked in the federal system as a contractor for a long time. We call it ... "federal poetry".


    Hang on a second. (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Anne on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 09:06:45 AM EST
    The sum and substance of our presence at Guantanamo is not the detention facility - it IS a Naval Air Station, after all.  And why confine the outrage to what is being spent at Gitmo - why not look at the amenities offered at ALL US military bases?

    Should voluntary military service consign those who serve, along with their families and non-military base personnel, to lives that are one step up from prison?  Should the reward for voluntarily giving up one's civilian life to serve his or her country - and in this day and age, with the knowledge that war is probably in one's future - be having to give up all of the amenities of civilian life?

    Does this mean the money is always spent wisely?  It's the government, after all, so of course the answer is "no," but military life isn't supposed to be punishment - is it?  I mean, we do want to retain the personnel we have and attract others, and I don't think you do that by begrudging our military men and women some semblance of what is available for civilians whose lives aren't likely to be put on the line at any moment.

    I suppose getting the building materials (none / 0) (#13)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 09:18:23 AM EST
    and the construction crews and equipment to Gitmo is pretty costly.

    But (none / 0) (#20)
    by CoralGables on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:08:33 AM EST
    a playground for every 15 children under 18 on the base does seem a little extravagant.

    I never see enough kids (none / 0) (#21)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:13:39 AM EST
    on those tiny playgrounds to justify what we have probably spent on them.  The kids need a playground though, and if they must always be supervised you may as well make one or two nice ones.  If parents must drop everything in order for you to slide on a slide, I think the playground has a much better chance of being well used if it is large and lots of fun and you can make a whole afternoon of it.

    from FL. Supposed to add 50% to the cost.

    This is Stupid (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 09:18:26 AM EST
    I have actually been to Gitmo long before the phrase 'enemy combatant' was ever coined, circa 1990.

    You can not leave Gitmo, so they have to bring in everything one might normally find right outside a base, like restaurants and bars, inside the base.  I am pretty sure Starbucks and Pizza Hut are paying rent, and the bar is making plenty of money.

    Military personnel like doing the same things as civilians and getting people to volunteer for duty is crappy places take a some incentives.

    Sure they waste money, but to specifically call out Gitmo without any comparison is pretty weak, what are they spending in Okinawa, Haifa, or Thule for entertainment?

    The base will remain open whether there are 181 or 0 prisoners, so what is the problem ?  And do you have the same issues with non-US bases that spend many millions more ?

    Hold on, let me get the (none / 0) (#1)
    by Wile ECoyote on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 06:19:42 AM EST
    beer and popcorn.  This going to be fun.

    Obviously McChrystal needs (none / 0) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:24:29 AM EST
    to take command of Gitmo and immediately throw out the fast food, and the racetrack would be gone yesterday too :)

    When you are on a COP (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by AlkalineDave on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 09:45:25 AM EST
    as opposed to a FOB, and you go back to a FOB for some things and see a bunch of guys who've sat easy eating big macs for 4 months, it gets to you.  Add that to the fact that there are overweight and out of shape service members walking around in combate zones...it's combat!  Subway?  Maybe... Burger King?  Ridiculous

    Pretty sure the President made the call on the fast food.


    You think it was Obama huh? (none / 0) (#19)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:01:23 AM EST
    I figured it was McChrystal outright because he is very health and fitness conscious.  At first my husband was upset when he was at Bagram, because I guess Friday night was pizza night and they all chipped in for pizza.  He isn't having to watch his weight though now with the RA drugs he has to take, it keeps him pretty thin.  But when he got home and saw the next flight school class, he did a 180 on me and stomped around here that this military is too damned fat and the kids of our nation are in horrible shape.  He says he has never seen such fat prosepctive pilots and he said something about not having to pass a physical fitness test in basic training.  Have you heard that too?

    The President (none / 0) (#24)
    by AlkalineDave on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:29:47 AM EST
    made the call, but I'm guessing it was at McChrystal's request.  I can understand your husband's frustration.  I've heard Bagram can be boring.

    Fitness standards are getting tightened across all branches.  Unfortunately, you do see heavier out of shape service members, and it irks those of us who do our best to stay in shape.  It's infuriating across all branches.


    7,000 comment is misstated and (none / 0) (#2)
    by BTAL on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:05:55 AM EST

    How much personnel is required for 181 detainees? According to the Pentagon's website for the Joint Task Force Guantanamo:

    That is the population for the Entire Naval station, not just for the operation of the detention facilities.

    Exactly, (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by AlkalineDave on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 09:40:51 AM EST
    that assumption is unfair.  Between the Marines, sailors, and coast guard who do MUCH more than just guarding prisoners, some amenities should be expected.  A hardship tour is a hardship tour, but give us a break.  

    And (none / 0) (#3)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:10:23 AM EST
    ...retirees, family members, DoD civilians and contractors

    Do people really retire to Gitmo :)? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:27:42 AM EST
    For the Sunshine (none / 0) (#8)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:35:37 AM EST
    Kind of like Boca or Mesa.  :)

    What are they going to do with (none / 0) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:46:58 AM EST
    27 playgrounds?  I have a pet peeve.  They put these little playgrounds all over housing now so that it will be close to the kids, but then they don't allow anyone under the age of 12 to play on them unless their parents are present these days.  Not even a ten year old.  If your kids sneak out while you are sleeping in on Saturday morning the MPs are knocking on your door cuz your kids are unsupervised.  Make one or two really terrific playgrounds, then we have something wonderful to look forward to, meet up at, and make a short trip to, and our kids and our parents aren't always stressing out because the kids help themselves to the pitiful playground.

    Well (none / 0) (#23)
    by CoralGables on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:17:38 AM EST
    baseball fields batting cages football field volleyball courts go cart track local watering hole almost personal playground for those late night drunken swings and a personal courtroom for when I'm arrested for drunk and disorderly and no oil stained beach.

    Can I purchase a little beachside bungalow? The only thing not mentioned for my retirement is the availability of discount suntan lotion.


    Maybe no oily beaches? (none / 0) (#42)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:53:40 PM EST
    The first time I went (none / 0) (#7)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:33:48 AM EST
    to GITMO you had to tip to get some Coke in your Cuba Libre....

    It is a closed base... You can't go off it. We need to take care of our forces who are stationed there.

    I knew it (none / 0) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 08:50:00 AM EST
    Jim has been to Gitmo more than once :)

    I will admit only (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 01:25:33 PM EST
    that it is hot and has a most excellent harbor for sea/air operations.

    And we prayed daily for happy hour... and a way to get the beer cold....discharging a CO fire extinguisher is frowned on.... and filing a flight plan to climb up to higher altitudes to cool beverages for troop morale is a sure way to obtain unwelcome attention from Flt Ops.


    Those activities seem about the same (none / 0) (#15)
    by ruffian on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 09:40:48 AM EST
    as those at other Naval Air Stations I have visited. I don't think they are luxury items. Local travel agents around the bases often offer discounts for things like the kayak trips,local sightseeing tours,  etc., but they are not free to the personnel.

    I agree that the prison part of Gitmo should be closed and the personnel required to run it transferred, but the Naval base would still remain. As long as we have a volunteer military and they are stationed overseas, they have to have something to do in their off hours. The occasional ping pong tournament  does not seem excessive to me.

    They do get good discounts on goods in the Navy exchange, but they are comparable to what we could get at an outlet mall, and  the discounts come from the vendors. The taxpayer is not paying half of that Louis Vuiton bag.

    How much are Pizza Hut... (none / 0) (#25)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:44:17 AM EST
    and Starbucks making on this deal?  I don't fault our service people some recreation and luxuries...I do fault Starbucks and Pizza Hut a government subsidy and basically captive customers.  Can't the mess hall just serve gourmet coffee and crappy pizza as part of the normal menu?  And can't we give 'em free beer?

    Y'all know I ain't down with all these bases all around the world...but the soldiers should be taken care of, not Starbucks.

    Typically vendors bid for the right to (none / 0) (#26)
    by ruffian on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:57:10 AM EST
    be the food providers on a base. I imagine the DoD picked the best deal for a coffee and a pizza vendor out of the proposals they received.

    Also the way it works a lot of times (none / 0) (#27)
    by ruffian on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 11:02:21 AM EST
    (can't speak for all bases, just the ones I've visited) is that there is a mess hall where the troops (military only)get their basic meals provided at designated hours - probably free military grade coffee and pizza there - then there are food courts on base that are open during what we could call normal business hours. This is where you would find Pizza Hut, BK, KFC, Starbucks, etc. Contractors and families can use these facilities. the vendors bid to have the right to operate on base. Maybe BK for example offered a better deal than Wendy's. Prices to the customer are comparable to normal US prices.

    Bottom line, the troops are taken (none / 0) (#28)
    by ruffian on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 11:05:32 AM EST
    case of under their basic meal plan. These extra facilities are for the troops to get some different food at their own expense, and for visiting military, families and contractors to have someplace to eat besides cooking at home or in the mini-kitchens in the visiting accommodations.

    Thanks ruff... (none / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 11:17:02 AM EST
    for the breakdown.

    No problem (none / 0) (#30)
    by ruffian on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 11:22:19 AM EST
    Didn't want it to look like the troops being pampered with free Pizza Hut pizza instead of normal disgusting military food!!

    To a NY'er... (none / 0) (#31)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 11:42:19 AM EST
    Pizza Hut is a form of torture!...:)

    Now its kinda buggin' me our soldiers are forced to go outta pocket to get food they actually like...and that they don't get an allotment of free beer and cigarettes.  Least we can do for 'em....since we're never gonna reel back the empire till we go broke.


    MREs (none / 0) (#33)
    by AlkalineDave on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 12:12:27 PM EST
    a loooooong time ago used to come with cigarettes and matches.  We still get matches...

    If I had my way Dave... (none / 0) (#36)
    by kdog on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 12:41:47 PM EST
    you'd get the cigs back, and a spliff to help deal with the stress:)

    And food & coffee so good at the mess hall on base that you'd never dream of hitting the Pizza Hut for that swill:)


    There (none / 0) (#38)
    by AlkalineDave on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 01:17:47 PM EST
    used to be a bit of a loophole that let us get by with spice.  They made sure to close that.  I still tell my commanders I'd rather have one of my Marines in his barracks room high than drunk.  What do I have to worry about if he's high?  He's gonna eat funyuns and watch Aqua Teen?  

    We'd appreciate the coffee.  If the military is somewhere, there's a coffee pot with us.


    Flight rations (none / 0) (#41)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 01:41:11 PM EST
    use to have a package of 4 cigarettes... Winstons, Pall Malls.... Camels..

    Things have changed.


    Perhaps my memory has fogged a bit (none / 0) (#40)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 01:38:38 PM EST
    but normal Navy chow wasn't all that bad. In fact, it was good.

    The other restaurants provided variety and convenience...

    But unless the Navy Exchange has changed its prices for various  goods it is not cheaper than a discount store. However, the quality of things were excellent, and less expensive than comparable off base items.

    My spouse has an engagement and wedding ring purchased from the Navy Exchange.


    Off limits (none / 0) (#32)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 11:54:27 AM EST
    There's no such thing as WASTEFUL SPENDING when it come to the defense budget! All I've heard about for the last year is how we have to cut our spending. The defense budget is never mentioned in those discussions.

    Next you'll be saying we waste money on our tough on crime policies.

    Hard to believe (none / 0) (#35)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 12:37:32 PM EST
    a military base would have the unmitigated gall to fly in a band for Memorial Day.

    Ah, there's this little gem (none / 0) (#37)
    by jbindc on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 12:57:01 PM EST
    The Obama administration wants to close the detention operation and relocate it to a prison in Illinois, but the prospect of seeing the final detainees depart seems increasingly like a long-term project. If the president does succeed, the Pentagon will leave behind a newly remodeled military encampment, along with numerous questions about whether the cost of creating what then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld once called the "least worst place" for suspected terrorists was worth the price.

    Notice what stuff isn't being reported in that article.  Of course, stuff like this helps make the administration's argument to move the detainees to Illinois. So, I'm sure there's an ulterior motive in this report being released now somewhere....