An aide to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., said lawmakers remain concerned that detainees who are released would rejoin the terror fight. The staff member was not authorized to discuss the issue on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity.
This week, the Pentagon asked Congress for more than $450 million for maintaining and upgrading the Guantanamo prison. More than 100 of the prisoners have launched a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention, and the military earlier this month was force-feeding 30 of them to keep them from starving to death.
Obama was expected to make the case that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan has decimated al-Qaida's core, even as new threats emerge elsewhere.
Against the backdrop of last month's deadly double-bombing at the Boston Marathon, administration officials said Obama will highlight the persistent threat of homegrown terrorists — militants or extremists who are either American citizens or have lived in the U.S. for years. The two Chechen-born suspects in the Boston attacks were raised in the United States and turned against America and its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan only in recent years, investigators have said.
Like the quandaries of drone strikes and Guantanamo, the rise of homegrown terrorism is nothing new. The Obama administration included homegrown threats in its National Security Strategy in 2010. However, such threats have increased as the power of al-Qaida's central leadership has ebbed — especially after Osama bin Laden was killed in his Pakistani hideout by U.S. special forces two years ago.
Singer, the Brookings expert, said Obama's administration has been plagued with making short-term calculations on security issues with long-term impacts. He said the president's speech will serve to gloss over the "ad-hoc" strategies advocated by some of his advisers, and make clear his top priorities for the rest of his time in office.
Especially with regard to the drone strikes, Singer said, "you have this irony that's played out over the last four years, where one of the greatest speakers of our era has largely remained silent about one of the signature aspects of his presidency."