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By a vote of 90-6, the US Senate overwhelmingly blocked President Obama’s efforts to close Guantanamo Prison by preventing the Administration access to funds to fulfill one of its first Executive Orders.  The reason?  There’s no plan.

While the Administration has been rich in its rhetoric in heralding the forthcoming closure of the facility and trying to restore America’s human rights credibility, it is in outright poor shape in  articulating the reality and tough answers to the “Now what?” questions.

The campaign driven closure decision and subsequent photo op announcement were the easy parts, but now reality has come home to roost.  With no plan on the table to answer how the facility will be actually be closed or details to explain what to do with the current 240 detainees; where they should be transferred; what do with future terrorist combatants captured by US forces, etc, the Senate made the right call in saying to the Executive Branch, “We agree with you Mr. President in closing Guantanamo, but before we cut you a check, can you fill us in on a few things first.…”

Contrast this appropriate and principled decision with the actions of Congress just months ago when it came to funding all of the infrastructure projects in the Stimulus Package.  Without so much as an inclination of actionable priorities (e.g., what projects/infrastructures should be worked on first; what were the selection criteria for shovel ready projects, etc.) or for that matter a semblance of an overarching plan for rebuilding and restoring America’s infrastructure, the Congress decided to issue a proverbial blank check to spend, spend, spend and then spend some more on infrastructure.   As a result, billions of dollars have gone out the door (with more probably following) and there is no overarching plan or strategy to govern these mind boggling expenditures.

While there are efforts by the Administration to provide transparency to the funding of the projects (namely the Recovery.gov site) there is no singular plan that anyone can point to with these projects as to how they were decided upon; what priority they should have; whether they contribute to the risk reduction and resilience of the community; and so forth.  Instead, we’re going to rely on politically driven wish lists and hope for the best.

I don’t know what’s scarier – having Guantanamo prisoners potentially being held in US prisons or getting the final bill when all of the infrastructure spending is done.  Both seem to be killers to me.

When you contrast these two recent examples of Congressional action there is a pattern to be observed here.  Based upon what we’ve just witnessed, it’s okay to hold up several million dollars until some tough questions are adequately and appropriately answered.  If you’re seeking billions though, you don’t have to worry about offering details of a plan as they won’t be asked for, nor will they be required.

Such actions defy logic and common sense, but that’s part of the problem with issues such as these – there is little logic or common sense applied to solving them.

Rich Cooper blog primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More