June 11, 2017 / 10:28 PM / 9 months ago

U.S. House panel to debate $115 million for Guantanamo Bay facilities

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. House of Representatives spending panel will vote on Monday on a $192.5 billion budget bill that includes $115 million to build permanent housing facilities for U.S. military personnel at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre even as the inmate population has fallen sharply.

The House Appropriations Committee said in a statement on Sunday that the 2018 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill included funding to build two new barracks to house service members stationed at Guantanamo Bay.

The Trump administration has asked for the money to build permanent replacements to deteriorating temporary housing units for U.S. troops.

President Barack Obama reduced the inmate population to 41, but fell short of fulfilling his promise to close the jail in Cuba. The facility once had nearly 800 detainees under Bush, but held about 245 detainees by the time Obama took office in 2009.

“They were not designed to withstand hurricane force winds and frankly are long past the date that we expected that we would be using them,” said Admiral Kurt Tidd, who heads U.S. Southern Command, in an April press briefing.

“We think it’s time that we make the investments that frankly ... for 15 years now we basically have avoided making,” he said.

He told Congress about 580 troops lived in containerised housing units manufactured in 2006 and 2008 that were designed to be used for five to seven years. Tidd said the housing units had roof leaks, plumbing failures and mould growth.

President Donald Trump said during his election campaign that he not only wanted to keep the detention centre open but “load it up with some bad dudes.”

The prison, which was opened by Republican President George W. Bush to hold terrorism suspects captured overseas after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks came to symbolize harsh detention practices.

The House legislative proposal retains language that prohibits the Pentagon from spending money to close Guantanamo Bay and prohibits funding for any facility within the United States to house detainees.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Richard Chang

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