Guantanamo Provisions in the Senate Defense Appropriations Bill

Later this week, the Senate is expected to begin debate on its version of the Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17). In contrast to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), DOD Appropriations actually provides the funding for the policies that the NDAA sets. If enough money isn’t appropriated for a particular policy, then that policy effectively becomes moot.

One of the policies in peril is the President’s effort to close prison at Guantanamo Bay. The House’s DOD Appropriations bill, passed on June 16th, contains provisions that would not only make it impossible to close the prison; it would also make it extremely difficult to take any steps towards this goal. One provision blocks funding for the office of the Special Envoy to Close Guantanamo at the Department of Defense. This office is responsible for arranging diplomatic agreements and security assurances for detainee transfers to other countries. Without it, the process of transferring detainees unanimously cleared by the six main national security agencies would suffer.

The bill also prevents funds from being used to survey or review potential locations in the United States to house Gitmo detainees. Though transfers to the United States are barred by law, transferring detainees to the United States for either prosecution or continued detention is a central component of the Department of Defense’s plan to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. A provision in the Senate’s FY17 NDAA allows the Department of Defense to design and plan facilities in the United States to house Gitmo detainees. If ultimately signed into law, the House DOD Appropriations bill could have a significant impact on the DOD’s ability to carry this out.

When they go to the floor this week, Senators should refrain from adopting any amendments to the DOD Appropriations bill that would further complicate the goal of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And when they go to conference after the Senate passes its version of the bill, both houses should reject the bad language in the House bill.

The facility is a threat to national security, costs American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and is inconsistent with American values. Congress should put politics aside and work with President Obama to close the prison for the good of the country.

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Published on July 6, 2016

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