AUMF: Scope and Reach

Obama Declares Intent to Seek an ISIS AUMF...Will the 2001 AUMF Be Amended Along the Way?

By Robert Chesney
Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 7:02 PM

It...is...on. At a press briefing today, President Obama declared three legislative priorities for the lame-duck Congress in the weeks ahead. One is to get an AUMF for ISIS:

Second, I'm going to begin engaging Congress over a new Authorization to Use Military Force against ISIL. The world needs to know we are united behind this effort, and the men and women of our military deserve our clear and unified support.

OK, an AUMF for ISIL. At any rate...Phil Mattingly of Bloomberg followed up with a question on what such an AUMF might entail, and the President gave remarks in response that will tantalize readers but will not clarify whether it will be a White House priority to use this opportunity to alter the 2001 AUMF:

[Phil Mattingly:] Is that going to be more of a codification of the limits that you've put in place for the mission up to this point? Or what should we be looking for on that when you send it to the Hill? Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: On the AUMF, the leaders are going to be coming here on Friday. It will be an expanded group, not just the four leaders, but a larger group who all have an interest in the issues we're discussing today. And I’m actually going to invite Lloyd Austin, the CENTCOM Commander, to make a presentation about how our fight against ISIL is proceeding and I think to answer questions and assure that Congress is fully briefed on what we're doing there.

With respect to the AUMF, we’ve already had conversations with members of both parties in Congress, and the idea is to right-size and update whatever authorization Congress provides to suit the current fight, rather than previous fights.

In 2001, after the heartbreaking tragedy of 9/11, we had a very specific set of missions that we had to conduct, and the AUMF was designed to pursue those missions. With respect to Iraq, there was a very specific AUMF.

We now have a different type of enemy. The strategy is different. How we partner with Iraq and other Gulf countries and the international coalition -- that has to be structured differently. So it makes sense for us to make sure that the authorization from Congress reflects what we perceive to be not just our strategy over the next two or three months, but our strategy going forward.

And it will be a process of listening to members of Congress, as well as us presenting what we think needs to be the set of authorities that we have. And I’m confident we're going to be able to get that done. And that may just be a process of us getting it started now. It may carry over into the next Congress.