By Maj. Peter Stambersky, Regional Contracting Office-Guantanamo Bay December 8, 2011
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba -- Christopher Columbus landed here at Fisherman's Point in 1494 and from that point forward the bay has remained a vital harbor for many countries.
The United States took control of the bay in 1898 during the Spanish-American War when U. S. Marines landed at Fisherman's Point on June 10, 1898 and were able to squash Spanish resistance with naval support and help from Cuban scouts. This invasion helped support actions to the west, where Col. Theodore Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders" formed the 1st U.S. Volunteer Calvary.
On Feb. 23, 1903, then-President Roosevelt, realizing the strategic importance for a coaling and naval station at Guantanamo Bay, signed the first known contract written for GTMO. It was for a perpetual lease of the 45 square miles of land and water around the bay. The lease was agreed to by Tomas Estrada Plama, the first president of Cuba, and was later incorporated into the Cuban Constitution under the Platt Amendment. In 1934 the lease was reaffirmed under the Avery Porko Treaty and the lease payment was modified from $2,000 in U.S gold coins per year to the 1934 value of $4,085 in U.S. dollars and made the lease permanent.
After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, President Dwight Eisenhower insisted the status of the base remain unchanged, despite new Cuban leader Fidel Castro's objections.
Since then, the Cuban government has cashed only one of the rent checks from the U.S. government, and even then, according to Castro, only because of "confusion" in the early days of the leftist revolution. The remaining checks made out to "Treasurer General of the Republic"--a title that ceased to exist after the revolution--have not been cashed.
The United States argued that the cashing of the single check signified Havana's ratification of the lease -- and that ratification by the new government rendered moot any questions about violations of sovereignty and illegal military occupation.
Today a 17.4 mile fence line surrounds Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, the only U.S. base operated in a communist-led country. It has been home to Joint Task Force Guantanamo since Nov. 4, 2002.
Since 2004, the 410th Contracting Support Brigade, headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, has had the responsibility of providing support to the JTF and the Office of Military Commissions. The 410th's Regional Contracting Office-GTMO, provides direct support to the command.
The mission of RCO-GTMO is to plan and execute contingency contracting actions in support of Joint Task Force -- Guantanamo forces, to serve as the forward-deployed planner for migrant operations and to serve as the business advisor to the JTF commander on contracting support requirements.
RCO-GTMO's main customers are the JTF and the Office of Military Commissions. The office procures many items ranging from personal protective equipment, containerized living areas, office furniture, information and technology products and services, to library services for the detainees, an Islamic advisor that reports directly to the JTF commander and surveillance camera installation and maintenance in each of the five camps.
The office staff also teaches contracting officer representative comprehensive training to new CORs and assists customers with various tasks including performance work statements and justification/approval reviews.
The office has conducted numerous actions throughout the past three years with 86 contract actions in fiscal year 2008 for almost $8 million, 51 contract actions in fiscal year 2009 for more than $9.5 million and 76 contract actions in fiscal year 2010 for more than $19.3 million.