- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Pentagon is mulling a $150 million overhaul of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, including building a new dining hall, hospital and barracks for the guards.

The project was recommended by Guantanamo’s top general and has come amid complaints by detainees’ lawyers that many of the conditions in the prison are unsatisfactory or even life-threatening, NBC News reports.

Hunger strikers have tripled in the last two weeks, with many being force fed through tubes. Military officials have denied anyone’s life is at risk, but they have also said tensions among the inmates is growing, since the president has yet to close down the facility as promised.

“They had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed,” said Gen. John Kelly when asked about the hunger strikes during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, according to NBC News. “They were devastated, apparently… when the president backed off — at least their perception — of closing the facility.”

“He said nothing about it in his inauguration speech,” Gen. Kelly continued. “He said nothing about it in his State of the Union speech. He has said nothing about it. He’s not — he’s not restaffing the office that … looks at closing the facility.”

The White House says it is committed to shutting down the prison but is being blocked by Congress.

Guantanamo has an operating budget this year of nearly $177 million, making it the country’s most expensive prison per capita by far, according to NBC News.

Gen. Kelly, who recommended the ambitious project, said the guard barracks are plagued by mold and need to be replaced. The proposal also outlines a new $12 million dining hall for the troops, a new $11.2 million hospital and medical units for the detainees, a $9.9 million “legal meeting complex” where lawyers can meet their detainee clients, and a $10.8 million “communications network facility” to store data, including computer records and tapes of interrogations, which has been required by a federal court order, NBC News reports.

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