A fiscal Guantanamo reality check

In this March 30, 2010, file photo, reviewed by the U.S. military, a U.S. trooper stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the detention facility of Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

President Barack Obama has repeatedly stated his resolve to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer the enemy combatants held there to the United States. Fortunately, though, he has been just as repeatedly stymied from achieving that misguided goal, which he set even before winning the nation’s highest office.

Now add another welcome — and practical — obstacle to the president’s idea. As The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, the Defense Department, as ordered by the White House, has produced a plan for the closure of Gitmo and the shift of its inmates to the U.S.

However, the Obama administration, seemingly stunned by the cost estimate for that process, has rejected the Defense Department’s plan and directed it to try again — aiming for a lower price. From that story: “The Pentagon estimated it would require as much as $600 million to close the prison, including a one-time capital investment of as much as $350 million in construction costs, according to officials familiar with the Pentagon plan, which hasn’t been released publicly.”

According to the Journal, Gitmo’s annual operating expenses are about $400 million a year — and under the Pentagon plan, running a U.S.-based facility would cost less than $300 million a year. Yet that’s not counting the $600 billion start-up cost determined by the Pentagon report.

So the Defense Department’s analysis debunks the president’s frequently stated contention that closing Gitmo would save taxpayers money. It also forces the administration to delay — again — submission of a closure plan to Congress.

And beyond the price tag of closing Gitmo lies the peril of bringing terror detainees to the U.S. That obvious hazard has been the fully justified source of consistent bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill to closing Gitmo and transferring its prisoners into the homeland.

Yes, the Gitmo population has dwindled to 107 prisoners — and 48 of them have been ruled eligible to be transferred to other nations. Still, that leaves 59 who pose too high a security concern to move.

And radical Islamic terrorists would likely regard any U.S. site where dozens of such detainees are incarcerated as a high-value target.

That makes the latest setback to President Obama’s notion of bringing Gitmo prisoners into our nation good news for all Americans. It’s particularly welcome here in the tri-county area, where the Naval Brig in Hanahan has been high on the list of sites for the relocation of detainees.

As Sen. Tim Scott summed up the indisputable case against that policy in an Oct. 31 guest column on our Commentary page: “The Naval Brig in Hanahan is within a few short miles of multiple schools and the airport, and 20 minutes from the port and downtown Charleston — which you may have heard is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. The Guantanamo Bay detention facilities are incredibly isolated, and present no danger to American families. The choice here is not really even a choice. Keep those terrorists behind those walls.”

And federal lawmakers should keep refuting — and rejecting — the White House’s phony justifications for the high-risk move of bringing terror detainees from Gitmo to the U.S.