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FILE - In this June 27, 2006 file photo, reviewed by a US Department of Defense official, U.S. military guards walk within Camp Delta military-run prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File) FILE - In this June 27, 2006 file photo, reviewed by a US Department of Defense official, U.S. military guards walk within Camp Delta military-run prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)  

Defense Sec. Panetta unaware of $750,000 Gitmo soccer field

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

In the wake of the revelation that the Department of Defense has spent $750,000 on a soccer field for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp pressed Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on his knowledge of the expenditure at a Budget Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Panetta denied knowledge of the project.

“Did you know that apparently federal taxpayers are paying for a $750,000 soccer field at Gitmo? Is that something that the Department of Defense knew about?” Huelskamp asked Panetta.

“I’m sorry, what was that?” Panetta replied.

“A $750,000 soccer field at Gitmo that was just announced by the Department of Defense — is that something you were aware of?” Huelskamp reiterated.

“No, I wasn’t,” the defense secretary said.

On Tuesday, Fox News first reported that the military was just wrapping up construction on a $750,000 soccer field for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

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Huelskamp’s Florida colleague, Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, expressed similar outrage at the news and pressed Panetta for more answers in a letter Wednesday.

In the letter to Panetta, Bilirakis expressed dismay at the use of defense funds for the “comfort and relaxation” of detainees during the country’s difficult budgetary times.

“At best, this construction of a new recreation facility is incredibly tone deaf,” he wrote to Panetta. (RELATED: More on defense spending)

Bilirakis went on to question the administration’s oversight of federal funds, pressing Panetta on the reasons behind the need for a new recreation facility and how the department will prevent future potentially-wasteful spending.

“America is in a fiscal crisis and this is a time in which every taxpayer dollar must be used efficiently and effectively. This certainly is not the best use of those dollars,” Bilirakis said in a statement. “Department of Defense dollars should be used to protect our nation, not to entertain detainees.”

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