1. Update
  2. U.S. Wars & Militarism

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Introduces War Powers Resolution at FCNL Advocacy Teams Summit

Annual Meeting 2019

November 13, 2019


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) joined members of FCNL’s Advocacy Teams to announce her new War Powers Reform Resolution.

I am so grateful for the work you have done over the years to support the repeal of the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, or AUMFs, and for your call on Congress to take back its war powers authority. The 2001 and 2002 AUMFs were never meant to give the president a blank check for the use of military force.

Since they were passed, however, presidential administrations have used these authorizations to involve our military in wars far beyond their original intent.

I am so grateful for the work you have done over the years to support the repeal of the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for the Use of Military Force, or AUMFs, and for your call on Congress to take back its war powers authority.

Congress has relinquished its power to declare war against new enemies or in new countries.

I have served on both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, and I now serve as the Ranking Member for the Personnel subcommittee. I am all too familiar with the impact that Congressional inaction has on our service members and alliances abroad.

The wars launched with these AUMFs have gone on much longer than Congress intended.

Our country’s war in Afghanistan began 18 years ago.

The war was authorized less than three weeks after 9/11; you could still smell the smoke at Ground Zero.

The war was intended to be short. It was intended to be a quick response to take out the terrorists who attacked us on our own soil. We had the whole world on our side and a clear mission.

And our military, with our allies, got the job done. They decimated Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

But then… we never left. We are still fighting there.

We have been in this war for so long that we are now recruiting new service members who weren’t even born when the war began.

And 16 years ago, we went into Iraq based on a falsehood: that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

American troops are still in Iraq today.

And not only have these wars gone on for longer than intended, but presidents have since expanded them to new territories.

We have sent our service members to fight in Syria, we are involved in Yemen, and we have troops in over a dozen other countries... without Congressional debate or approval, without a clear mission, and well beyond the intent of the original AUMFs.

Every year, more and more people pay the ultimate price of these endless wars.

Over 7,000 American military members have died since 2001, and so many U.S. service members have returned severely injured by wounds seen and unseen.
Since 2001, the United States and our allies have lost over 500,000 lives in these war zones, according to a report made public today by the Watson Institute at Brown University. That number doesn’t include the people who died of a lack of access to water, food, and medical care brought on specifically by these wars.

Moreover, these wars have cost nearly $6 trillion.

We have been in this war for so long that we are now recruiting new service members who weren’t even born when the war began.

The fact of the matter is, meeting the terror threat does not require holding territory. We know that terror groups have metastasized. They recruit and plan online and can strike us and our allies regardless of physical control of a country.

We have the best intelligence professionals, quick reaction forces, and the best military assets deployed around the world. There is no geography we cannot reach on short notice.

We don’t advance our goals by stationing tens of thousands of US troops and heavy equipment in countries that don’t want us there and that are costly to supply... in fact we do the opposite.

Instead, we should utilize 21st century technology and strategy to address modern day threats. We should turn to our international partners to find diplomatic solutions before turning to military force.

Our presidents most stop using the post-9/11 AUMFs to wage military action across the Middle East without accountability or buy-in from the American public.

The founders of our country designed our government deliberately to ensure no branch of government held too much power. In their design, they gave Congress the power to authorize war. Congress is supposed to be the embodiment of the will of the people – members are elected to represent the interests of Americans.

When decisions are made unilaterally by a president, Congress fails to meet their constitutionally-given responsibility to hold presidents accountable for endless and unnecessary wars.

It is time for Congress to reclaim their foreign policy role and accept their own constitutional responsibility.

So, today, I am introducing the War Powers Reform Resolution.

This legislation would end the manipulation of Congressional authorizations for military force to create and extend wars Congress never agreed to. And it would stop the endless wars that undermine our national security.

It would repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs that authorized the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. This would eliminate the ability of President Trump, and any future presidents, to use authorizations that are nearly two decades old for wars that have expanded significantly beyond the original scope of those authorizations.

It is time for Congress to reclaim their foreign policy role and accept their own constitutional responsibility.

But simply repealing the active AUMFs is not enough. We need fundamental and long-lasting change.

We understand the costs and consequences of war all too well in America. Earlier this fall, I visited the 10th Mountain Division of the US Army based in Fort Drum, New York. Since 2001, the 10th Mountain Division has deployed more times than any other unit in the country. And those service members are deeply devoted to serving our country, no matter what that requires. But I have heard from service members and their families about the toll that deployment takes on them. They face physical and mental health challenges and time away from their families.

It should be the responsibility of our elected leaders to use our troops’ service and dedication to this country carefully and only when it is really needed.

This is one of the many reasons military force should be a last resort. If we do need to use force, the mission must have clear achievable goals with tactics that match the threat.

And it must be done faithfully to the Constitution — with the full weight of Congressional oversight and a clear explanation to the American people of the military purpose, goals, and targets.

My legislation would require any future AUMFs passed under expedited procedures in Congress to have five clearly defined conditions. First, a president would be required to provide Congress with the specific objective for the military action.

Second, an administration would have to provide clear justification to Congress for the need of military force and with clarity that the force is necessary, appropriate, and proportional to the mission.

A president’s justification for the military force would have to be far clearer than it is now, to allow the American people to better hold an administration responsible for the action.

Third, an administration would be required to provide a finite list of specifically named adversaries involved in the military action, without the option to expand the scope of the action unless Congress approves.

Fourth, an administration would have to state in which countries or sub-regions of countries the mission would occur, preventing the use of force outside of those specified regions.

Endless wars must be a thing of the past. Instead, focused and deliberate military action must be used sparingly and when we need it the most. We owe it to our service members, their families, and to all Americans.

Lastly, Congress would not approve any AUMF for longer than two years. If a president sees cause for a continuation of the military action, he or she would have to file a new AUMF with Congress.

And when Congress wants to narrow or repeal an authorization, it could use the same expedited procedures used for a new AUMF, allowing Congress to make decisions not only on starting wars but also on ending them.

Critically, to enforce these requirements and uphold Congressional oversight, my legislation would limit the use of congressionally appropriated funds to support only the actions authorized under the AUMF, and not any actions beyond its scope.

Our democracy was built to represent the will of the people, and the job of Congress is to reflect that and to protect the people.

When military action is taken without the consideration of Congress, members are abdicating their responsibility to the country and putting at risk our national security and the security of the American people.

It is time to reclaim Congress’ full foreign policy role by changing the way military action is authorized. Endless wars must be a thing of the past. Instead, focused and deliberate military action must be used sparingly and when we need it the most. We owe it to our service members, their families, and to all Americans.

Thank you.