Monday, December 4, 2006
The Pentagon is invoking emergency authority to expedite funding of a war-crimes-court compound at its Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England has informed Congress.
Defense spokesmen would not say when, if ever, the Pentagon had last invoked similar authority. Nor would they specify which military construction already approved by Congress would be frozen to fund the court project, which could cost as much as $125 million, according to U.S. government documents.
The move was prompted by "national security implications and extreme urgency," England wrote several Republican and Democratic senators and House members said in a Nov. 17 letter.
John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and his successor in the next Congress, Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), have filed a joint letter of protest, congressional staff members said.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote England in a two-page letter dated Nov. 29 that, although he understands the need for more facilities, the price tag "is a little excessive at this point," Hunter spokesman Josh Holly said.
England's letter cited "Section 2808 of title 10, United States Code" as authorization for the fast-track authority. The Pentagon would not elaborate, but it appears to be relying on a National Emergency Construction Authority Executive Order, which President Bush signed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.