So the budget is out. But where’s the roughly $150 million needed for the Obama administration to buy the Thomson Correction Center from Illinois? That’s the necessary step for closing Guantanamo Bay this year, as the administration desires: Without the money to buy Thomson, the government has nowhere to transfer the remaining Guantanamo detainees, so the prison stays open and everyone’s unhappy except for conservatives who want to keep the place running. But for the first time in this very flawed process, the Obama administration is showing signs of playing hardball. The money to close the facility is in next year’s Afghanistan war supplemental.
Robert Hale, the Pentagon comptroller, just made that announcement in a budget briefing that’s still going on. Basically, the fiscal 2011 budget request for the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — that’s $159.3 billion, by the way, total — contains a $350 million “transfer” fund that would allow the administration all aspects of shuttering the detention facility in Cuba, Hale said, including the purchase of Thomson. And, repeating a call made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Hale called on Congress to pass the supplemental “by spring — so we can meet all the needs of our troops.”
That amounts to a dare to congressional Republicans. If you try to filibuster money for closing Guantanamo, you’ll be denying the troops in the field with the money they need to succeed in Afghanistan
denying the military of half a trillion dollars. The Bush administration repeatedly denounced budgetary obstructionism on the war by congressional Democrats — especially during the summer of 2007 when they tried to stop the Iraq surge — as a slight to the troops. Gates was in his same chair for some of that, and now he’s basically saying he’s not afraid to say the same thing to the GOP. Their move.
Update: My mistake, I misheard Hale. The money to close GTMO is in the fiscal 2011 base budget. The political calculus is modified accordingly but still applies.
Final Update, I Promise: *My mistake, I misread the transcript for the above update. I heard Hale properly the first time around and reported this accurately. To be very clear: the money requested for closing Guantanamo is contained in *next year‘s Afghanistan supplemental funding, now called the “Overseas Contingency Operations” fund.