November 13, 2019

Gillibrand Introduces Landmark Legislation To Restore Congress’s Role Over The Nation’s War Powers And Finally Put An End To Forever Wars

A New Report Reveals that Since Military Interventions Began in 2001, an Estimated 27,000 American and Allied Lives Have Been Lost -- With A Total Human Toll of Over Half a Million Lives -- and that the Costs for War for the United States Will Reach an Estimated $6.4 Trillion; Gillibrand: After Nearly Two Decades of War with No Clear End in Sight, Congress Must Finally Show Leadership in U.S. Foreign Policy

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, today introduced the War Powers Reform Resolution, new landmark legislation that would restore Congress's leadership in the nation’s foreign policy and finally put an end to unauthorized forever wars. In 2001 and 2002, Congress passed Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs) to authorize military action, respectively, against September 11th terrorists hiding in Afghanistan and the perceived threat from Iraq. Since then, successive presidents have unilaterally used these AUMFs to justify almost two decades of military operations against new adversaries, in different countries, and without a defined end. The 2001 and 2002 AUMFs were never intended to be a blank check for the use of military force, and their expanded use has eroded Congress’s ability to serve as a check on the president’s military authority.

Gillibrand’s War Powers Reform Resolution would amend the War Powers Resolution to ensure no AUMF is used to continue perpetual wars that compromise the country’s national security. In order to deploy armed forces into hostilities, the legislation would require the president to provide Congress with a clear objective for military action; evidence that the use of the United States’ armed forces is necessary, appropriate, and proportional to the mission; a finite list of adversaries; and the names of the countries where the US military will deploy. Critically, the legislation would place a two-year limit on any future authorization, and deny appropriations for unauthorized wars. It would also repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs.

“For nearly two decades, Congress has yielded its Constitutional authority to declare war to the presidency. What started as a mission to defeat Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the perceived threat in Iraq has expanded to 18 years of war in multiple countries, with hundreds of thousands of lives lost, and trillions of dollars spent. Ambiguous wars with no clear end in sight undermine our national security,” said Senator Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “The Constitution makes it clear that presidents do not have the unilateral authority to send our service members into harm’s way without explicit Congressional authorization, and I’m introducing the War Powers Reform Resolution so Congress can take back this responsibility. My legislation would set clear and defined goals for the use of military force abroad, place a limit to how long, where, and against whom we can continue military action without a new authorization, and finally put a stop to endless wars and prevent them in the future.”

A study released today by the Watson Institute at Brown University reveals that more than 27,000 American and allied lives have been lost since U.S. military interventions began in 2001. The study estimates that the total human toll of these wars – including Americans, allies, and civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq – has reached over 500,000 lives lost. These figures leave uncounted the many individuals who have died indirectly from these wars due to water loss, lack of infrastructure, and war-related disease, or those who have died in Yemen and other places where these wars have metastasized. Additionally, the Watson Institute’s study also estimates that the United States has spent approximately $5.4 trillion on wars since 2001, with a minimum of $1 trillion in additional spending necessary over the next several decades to care for the veterans of these wars.

In addition to setting clear and defined goals for U.S. military action, Gillibrand’s legislation would help put an end to extended military interventions by limiting the use of appropriations to support U.S. forces in hostilities outside of an AUMF. If U.S. forces remain beyond two years without Congressional approval, Congress would not provide operational funding. This would require any administration to come to Congress with adequate time before the two years is over to pass a new AUMF, if necessary.

Specifically, the War Powers Reform Resolution would do the following:

  • Require that any future AUMF that passes using the expedited procedures in the War Powers Resolution provides:
    1. A specific strategic objective for military action;
    2. A clear justification that the military force is necessary, appropriate and proportional to the mission;
    3. A finite list of named adversaries, not an open-ended authority for the President to add future adversaries without Congressional authorization;
    4. A clear specification of countries (not an open-ended authority for the President to expand the area of conflict without Congressional review); and
    5. A two-year maximum authority (that may be shorter in any given AUMF).

  • Provide clear procedures for Congress to quickly narrow or repeal an existing AUMF when needed.

  • Prohibit the use of appropriations to support military force in hostilities outside the parameters of an AUMF.

  • Require more transparency in the President’s justification for any future AUMF or report required under the War Powers statute.

  • Repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs (which were used to authorize military action in Afghanistan and Iraq), and cut off funds after a 60-days grace period allowed for the orderly and safe removal of U.S. personnel and assets.

The full text of Gillibrand’s legislation may be found here