MIAMI – The Pentagon has decided to lay an estimated $40 million underwater fiber-optic cable from Guantanamo Bay to South Florida, the Miami Herald has learned, in the latest sign that the military is preparing for detentions and other operations at the Navy base for the long term.
“It only makes sense to do if we’re going to be here for any period of time,” said Navy Capt. Kirk Hibbert, disclosing the project in an interview last week before ending a two-year tour as the Navy base commander.
Construction won’t start for more than a year. And communications won’t come online for probably two more years.
But the American military has already notified the Cuban military to expect a surveyor ship, the USNS Zeus, off the base’s coastline this summer – a first step toward getting the program funded and then out to bid.
The fiber-optics plan is the largest known infrastructure improvement for the base by the Pentagon, which has undertaken expansion and building projects in a mostly piecemeal and sometimes secretive fashion in the decade of housing war on terror captives there.
Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said the Defense Information Systems Agency had done a “feasibility study” and put the tentative price tag at $40 million. It will require congressional approval, he said, and is in the fiscal 2013 budget.
At Guantanamo, Hibbert said increasing data delivery from the base, which has both the war court and the prison camps intelligence unit, had stretched satellite access from the outpost.
The base, population about 6,000, is like a small town with a seaport, airport and the detention center that houses 169 foreign men as captives, with 1,700 troops and contractors on temporary assignment to imprison them.