The U.S. Navy wants Houston-based Halliburton Co. to build a $30 million prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Naval Facilities Engineering Command has assigned Halliburton subsidiary KBR to construct a two-story facility capable of handling 220 pris- oners, along with a security fence.
Known as Detention Camp No. 6, the facility will feature day rooms, exercise areas, medical and dental wards and a security control room.
The prison will be large enough to accommodate nearly half the 520 suspected enemy combatants being kept at Guantanamo.
The work is scheduled to be completed by July of next year.
"The future detention facility will be based on prison models in the U.S. and is designed to be safer for the long-term detention of detainees and guards who serve" at Guantanamo, a Pentagon spokesman said in a prepared statement. "It is also expected to require less manpower."
Since the U.S. government first began housing prisoners at Guantanamo in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, American taxpayers have shelled out about $100 million in construction costs, while spending another $90 million to $95 million annually to operate the facility, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said earlier this week.
That operation has been improved over the last three years, the Pentagon spokesman said, "especially since the early days when the military was given just a number of days' notice to construct a detention facility."
Just how long the United States will continue to house prisoners in Cuba remains unclear.
"The United States government, let alone the U.S. military, does not want to be in the position of holding suspected terrorists any longer than is absolutely necessary," Rumsfeld said during a briefing this week. "But as long as there remains a need to keep terrorists from striking again, a facility will continue to be needed."
Halliburton was assigned the construction job under an existing five-year contract it won with the Pentagon last year after competitive bidding. The total contract is valued at up to $500 million.
"KBR was selected to continue providing private-sector construction and related services to the U.S. Navy and other Department of Defense agencies and missions worldwide through this program," Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Gist Mann said.
But like so much of Halliburton's military contract work, the prison construction project sparked howls of protest from the company's critics on Capitol Hill.
"This is surreal," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
Lautenberg and other critics have long accused the Bush administration of funneling work to Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer and then overlooking problems with the company's performance.
Lautenberg issued a news release with a headline that read, in part, "Halliburton getting into Prison Building Business at GITMO!!"
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