Aug 20 2015
By U.S. Senator Jerry Moran and 27 Committee Chairman Jerry Reilly
Shortly after taking office in January 2009, President Obama ordered the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base within one year. In an attempt to fulfill a campaign promise, the administration put forth a vague proposal to move hundreds of terrorists to detention facilities located on American soil. Clarity was never provided as to how our national security would be protected, what it would cost taxpayers to construct or modify U.S. prisons, or how detainees would be prosecuted in a civilian judicial system within the United States. Nearly seven years later, those questions remain unanswered.
One of the U.S. facilities originally proposed to house Guantanamo prisoners was the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. The Kansas Congressional delegation and community leaders came together and successfully fought to prevent Guantanamo’s hasty closure and protect Fort Leavenworth, but it has now become clear that our fight is not over.
The Pentagon quietly sent an evaluation team to Fort Leavenworth last week as part of the president’s latest push to bring 116 terrorists to American soil before he leaves office. Just as in 2009, Fort Leavenworth’s soldiers, their families, and northeast Kansans should not be forced to unfairly bear the burden and consequences that accompany detaining terror suspects in the homeland.
Perhaps the most troubling part of the president’s proposal are the numerous unknown factors that create vulnerability and insecurity. Would detainees be treated the same as current inmates if they need specific medical attention beyond the scope of the barracks or the penitentiary? Transporting convicted felons always poses security risks, but the complexity of a terrorist escaping adds a significant threat level that must be addressed. What about the proximity to local transportation systems? Potential safeguards could include closing off citizen access to Sherman Airfield – the only public airport in Leavenworth – as well as stopping the rail and river barge traffic that runs through the post.
Additionally, are Kansans expected to foot the bill for the resources needed to address these unknown risks? These actions would have significant economic consequences on the region. The nearly 14,000 military and civilian personnel, their family members who live and serve on post, and the thousands of Kansans who live in the Leavenworth community and greater Kansas City metropolitan area, deserve better than to live in the instability that this proposal carries.
What family or business would not have serious hesitations about moving to or investing in a community where terrorists are being detained? Unfortunately, this is the reality we could be facing.
Just as concerning is the impact such a move would have on Fort Leavenworth’s international reputation as the “Intellectual Center of the Army.” The Army’s Command and General Staff College is the place where the future leaders of our Armed Forces and foreign militaries are educated and vital relationships are built. The detention of terrorists would disrupt Fort Leavenworth’s primary mission as a premier military education institution and could greatly diminish our 100-year strong international military student program.
Will our allies abroad still choose to send their military students to be trained at a location housing politically sensitive detainees? This is especially troublesome if detainees were part of attacks in our students’ home countries.
Finally, the increased infrastructure needed to detain terrorists on American soil would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Is that the best use of our taxpayer dollars?
Together, we are committed to blocking the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to Fort Leavenworth, and will encourage action in Congress to continue prohibiting the transfer of prisoners to Kansas or anywhere else in the United States. We support the Detaining Terrorists to Protect America Act – S. 165 – (legislation sponsored by Sen. Moran) to prohibit the transfer of detainees to the United States, as well as prohibit their release to countries across the globe.
As Congress considers the annual national defense authorization bill, we urge legislators to continue to uphold current law, which prohibits the closure of Guantanamo Bay and the transfer of detainees.
Such a critical national security decision deserves critical thought. Yet in seven years, this administration has been unable to present a cohesive, comprehensive and legally justifiable closure and relocation plan that maintains the safety and security of American citizens.
President Obama’s last-ditch effort to carry out a reckless national security decision in a desperate attempt to turn failures into accomplishments is disingenuous and flawed.
We are committed to making certain Fort Leavenworth is not its causality.