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At least $500 million has been spent since 9/11 on renovating Guantanamo Bay
The Pentagon referred inquiries about the base to its commander, Capt. Steven H. Blaisdell, who defended the spending.
"Because GTMO is an isolated and remote duty location with no access to an off-base community, all services must be provided on station," he said in a statement. "The installation benefits from expenditure of funds through retention and readiness improvements, as well as long-term facility sustainment, restoration and modernization."
Although spending on new projects has slowed, it has not stopped. Next up is an expansion of one of the most popular spots on the base: O'Kelly's, an Irish pub.
'It's up to Washington'
Before Sept. 11, Guantanamo Bay was known for being the nation's oldest overseas military base and not much else. "Gitmo" served as a Navy port, a facility for Haitian and Cuban refugees, a base for drug interdiction operations, and the inspiration for the 1992 movie "A Few Good Men." But the attacks gave the base new purpose as the global holding cell in the George W. Bush administration's "war on terror." It also gave military commanders justification to ask Washington for more money.
The spending began in earnest in February 2002, after the Pentagon awarded a construction contract to KBR, formerly Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton. KBR renovated the chain-link-fence compound known as Camp X-Ray, the first prison facility for detainees, which produced the iconic images of men on their knees in orange jumpsuits and blacked-out goggles. Camp X-Ray is now abandoned, overrun with weeds and "banana rats," groundhog-size rodents that roam the base.
KBR was paid $169 million to build the prison camps and related facilities. The company said that did not include bonuses paid by the government. The military did not provide information about bonuses paid to KBR or other contractors.
Nearly all materials were floated in on barges from Florida, which along with labor added more than 50 percent in costs compared with construction in the United States, according to a military analysis.
To support the detention operation, the Pentagon began to construct and renovate facilities around the prison camps. It spent $690,000 to build a headquarters for the Joint Detention Group. The building was completed in April 2009, three months after Obama ordered Guantanamo Bay closed. The move to the new building is on hold.
The Pentagon spent $18.2 million on a prison hospital and $2.9 million on a psychiatric ward next door. The ward has 12 beds housed inside an elongated metal trailer-like building with reflective-glass windows and a small sign that reads "Behavioral Health Unit." The military would not permit Post reporters to look inside the facility, citing patient confidentiality.
Recently finished was the $26 million construction of an eight-mile stretch of road along the naval station's fenced and mined border with Cuba. A dilapidated hand-painted sign at the Cuban border post states, "Republica de Cuba. Territorio Libre de America." From the American side, a Marine bulldog painted on a hillside growls back.
The old, rutted road was considered an embarrassment.
"When I got here, the road was un-drivable," Marine Maj. Jerry Willingham said.