Letter to United States Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates
The following letter was sent today from Governor Kathleen Sebelius to the United States Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates.
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Gates,
I fully support President Obama's position to shut down the terrorist detention center on Guantanamo Bay. Closing this facility is an important step toward helping America regain its moral stature in the international community.
Closing the terrorist detention center on Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) raises some very complex issues, particularly when it comes to relocating the prisoners to other detention centers. It is my understanding that Fort Leavenworth is being considered as one possible site to relocate the prisoners. As Governor of Kansas, I wanted to communicate with you at the outset of this decision-making process and share with you that I do not support prisoners being moved to the Fort. I will continue to seek input from local elected officials, community and military leaders in the area as your process moves forward, but their input is represented in the reasons listed below.
* The current United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) at Fort Leavenworth is a campus-style construction and would not support the requirement to separate detainees from inmates and still retain its current mission to provide rehabilitative operations versus detention operations. Further, the USDB is designed to be secure from the inside out. Placing maximum security detainees in the facility will require significant changes to the USDB so it can be protected from security risks from outside the complex. It is my understanding that the USDB was largely built as a medium security prison with a maximum security section.
* If GTMO detainees are sent to Fort Leavenworth, it is likely that eminent domain would be used to obtain additional land around the Fort needed for the increased security requirements for this base of less than nine square miles. Some of the land expected to be included in eminent domain is prime development land for the region. The economic viability of the region will be significantly affected if this land is no longer available for development.
* Fort Leavenworth currently does not have a medical facility, and it is estimated that it will take three to five years to build the required class three medical facilities for GTMO detainees. In the meantime, high risk detainees would be transported through the community to a nearby VA hospital. Based on past escape/break out experiences with the United States Penitentiary, this is an unacceptable risk to local citizens. Additionally, the local law enforcement staff will need to be increased and the County ambulance would need to be used to move the detainees. This is another negative economic impact to the community.
* More than 120 international students attend the Command and General Staff College. In all likelihood, international student participation would cease since many of the countries from which these students come have publicly stated they are opposed to GTMO and the treatment of prisoners. The elimination of this program will have national and international implications for decades to come.
* Fort Leavenworth and its Combined Arms Center have been acknowledged as the Intellectual Center of the Army. There is a realistic potential that current Fort Leavenworth missions such as Command and General Staff College will be moved to other locations and that future growth planning will cease. This would have a significant economic and quality of life impact on the communities near the Fort, as well as impact for the training and education of future leaders of our military services.
* The local airport is on Fort Leavenworth, and that airport will most likely no longer be available to local citizens. Furthermore, Congress granted a right of way to a rail line to pass through the installation more than 100 years ago, and today more than 50 trains a day use the line to transport goods to Omaha. Additionally, the river running through the Fort has commercial barge traffic. The airport, rail line and river traffic can become security risks, and making them inaccessible will significantly impact the economics of the area.
* Currently there are approximately 1,700 military dependents attending schools on Fort Leavenworth. It is expected that the large majority of the families assigned to the Fort will not want their children to attend schools in a high terrorism/high risk environment. This will reduce the number of families moving to the communities near the Fort, which will have a significant negative economic impact on the communities.
* Local citizens are concerned that the communities near the Fort will become a focal point for protestors, thereby posing a risk to local citizens. Local emergency responders have not been prepared for this type of risk.
As you can see, I believe Fort Leavenworth lacks the capability to host any number of GTMO detainees. Both the unique requirements associated with housing GTMO detainees and some physical limitations at Fort Leavenworth make Leavenworth an undesirable location for the detainees. In addition, their presence would greatly disrupt the largely educational mission of the Army's intellectual school house.
Thank you for continuing to serve as the Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration. I am proud there is no one more qualified to serve in this critical position than a fellow Kansan.
Governor of the State of Kansas