Use of Military Force

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Use of Military Force

Under Article I of the Constitution, Congress is granted the power to declare war. 

However today, more than two decades after Congress passed the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which authorized force broadly against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and those who aided or harbored them, Congress has not revised this authority, despite a lack of clearly defined limitations and restricted transparency. The United States continues to rely on the 2001 AUMF as the legal basis for broad counterterrorism operations, under expansive interpretations of its application to a growing number of groups in multiple countries.  This has allowed multiple administrations to interpret the 2001 AUMF in a manner that effectively cedes to the President the congressional role of authorizing military action.   

Furthermore, the 2002 AUMF authorizing war against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was invoked by the Trump Administration as a justification for escalating hostilities against Iran. Multiple proposals to repeal the outdated 2002 AUMF have been introduced in Congress. The Senate has passed S. 316, the bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Kaine and Young to repeal the 2002 AUMF and the 1991 Iraq AUMF.  Similar AUMF repeal legislation has been introduced in the House, sponsored by Reps. Barbara Lee, Abigail Spanberger, Chip Roy, and Tom Cole. The Biden Administration has previously issued an official statement of policy supporting repeal of the 2002 AUMF, stating that “no ongoing military activities” rely primarily on this authorization and that its repeal would likely have “minimal impact” on ongoing military operations.   

The Framers of the Constitution had a clear understanding regarding decisions about war. Congress must act to initiate war.

— Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) Hear this quote in context Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committees

What You Can Do

Transnational terrorism remains a threat today, but it is long past time for Congress to reclaim its constitutional role on matters related to the use of military force and conduct a comprehensive examination of the legal justification for more than two decades of counterterrorism operations.

You can ask Congress to support the repeal of the 2002 AUMF and the replacement of the 2001 AUMF with time-limited legislation that authorizes the use of military force against specifically named terrorist groups under specified parameters, while also enhancing congressional oversight and public transparency.

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