Fort Leavenworth A new session of the Army’s Command and General Staff College got under way Monday at Fort Leavenworth as debate continues over the possible transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the Kansas base.
The military prison at Fort Leavenworth is one of two sites under consideration by the Obama administration for confinement and trials of the detainees. The other a maximum security state prison in Standish, Mich.
More than 1,000 officers are enrolled in the General Staff College’s new session, including 67 officers from 59 nations. Monday’s events included an international flag ceremony and remarks by an Iowa congressman who graduated from the college in 1968.
Rep. Leonard Boswell said he hadn’t given the detainee issue much thought but understands the concern raised by local residents and members of Congress, adding that the matter requires careful review before making any decisions.
“That system (Guantanamo), until we get it figured out, it’s probably working pretty good,” said Boswell, a Democrat representing central Iowa.
Boswell retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Army after 20 years, including two tours of Vietnam and nine years in service abroad in other assignments.
Meanwhile, House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton sent a letter Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressing his concerns about moving detainees to Kansas, including federal law prohibiting detention of U.S. and foreign inmates in proximity of one another.
“Plans to transfer Guantanamo detainees to Fort Leavenworth would require additional expenses for military construction and enhanced security so as not to run afoul of the law,” Skelton wrote. “I feel strongly that Fort Leavenworth is not an appropriate option.”
The Missouri Democrat doesn’t disagree with the administration that Guantanamo has “tarnished the otherwise sterling reputation of our armed forces and our country.”
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell IV, commander of the eight-square-mile post on the banks of the Missouri River, knows that it is a big issue for local residents and the Kansas delegation, but refuses to enter the fray. It’s a long-standing military tradition for the military leaders not to enter into matters being debated by civilian officials.
Kansas’ Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback haven’t shown such restraint.
On Thursday, they announced they were placing holds on key Department of Defense and Department of Justice appointments until they received more answers from the Pentagon and Obama’s staff.
Brownback issued a statement Monday thanking Skelton for adding his voice to the fight.
“I am hopeful that the Defense Department will take seriously Chairman Skelton’s letter, and will once and for all remove Fort Leavenworth from the list of possible sites to house the detainees,” Brownback said.