AUMF Reform

Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- Bipartisan Support for a New AUMF?

By John Bellinger
Tuesday, June 20, 2017, 9:54 PM

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing today on a new Authorization to Use Military Force Against terrorist groups. Kathleen Hicks, former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and I were the witnesses. My written statement is here. Kathleen Hicks’ written statement is here.

I closed my opening statement as follows:

Members of Congress have understandable concerns about approving a broad new authorization and extending what many view as a forever war. However, I am convinced that Congress can come together to agree on a new AUMF that provides our military forces the clear legislative authorization and congressional support they need to defend the United States against Al-Qaida, ISIS and other terrorist groups, rather than continuing to rely on a 16-year-old authorization.

I was pleased that there appeared to be a strong bipartisan consensus among the sixteen Senators who attended that the 2001 AUMF needs to be repealed and replaced. We had a fulsome discussion of the value of sunsets; the definition of “associated forces”; geographic limitations; and limits on use of ground forces.

As Bobby Chesney has noted, we also had a brief discussion of the legal basis for the U.S. shootdown of the Syrian fighter plane. I said the following:

I was puzzled about the statements coming out of the Pentagon that the shootdown was authorized by the 2001 AUMF, and I hope that they will clarify that. I think the president may well have Article II authority, constitutionally.

I don't know all the facts. But he may have decided it was in our national interest to shoot down the plane.

But I -- I -- it's hard for me to see that Congress, by authorizing the use of force against organizations and nations and groups that committed the 9/11 attacks, authorized the use of force against Syria.​