Guards get combat pay, just like troops in Afghanistan, without the risk of being blown up. Some commanders get to bring their families to this war-on-terror deployment. And each captive gets $38.45 worth of food a day.
The Pentagon detention center that started out in January 2002 as a collection of crude open-air cells guarded by Marines in a muddy tent city is today arguably the most expensive prison on Earth, costing taxpayers $800,000 annually for each of the 171 captives by Obama administration reckoning.
That's more than 30 times the cost of keeping a captive on U.S. soil.
It's still funded as an open-ended battlefield necessity, although the last prisoner arrived in March 2008. But it functions more like a gated community in an American suburb than a forward-operating base in one of Afghanistan's violent provinces.
Congress, charged now with cutting $1.5 trillion from the budget by Christmas, provided $139 million to operate the center last year, and has made every effort to keep it open - even as a former deputy commander of the detention center calls it "expensive" and "inefficient."
"It's a slow-motion Berlin Airlift - that's been going on for 10 years," says retired Army Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti, a West Point graduate who in 2008 was deputy commander at the detention center.
Both its location and temporary nature drive up costs, says Zanetti. While there, he wrote a secret study that compared the operation to Alcatraz, noting that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had closed it in 1963 because it was too expensive.
At Guantanamo, everything comes in by barge or aircraft "from paper clips to bulldozers," Zanetti says, as well as the revolving guard force. Also, more recently, a massage chair for stressed-out prison camp staff.
Zanetti, now a Seattle-based money manager, was a financial adviser in civilian life before his New Mexico National ...