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Supporting the Changing Mission of Our Military

July 17, 2017
Weekly Columns
For fifty-six years, Congress has consecutively passed a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This legislation authorizes funding and operations for the Department of Defense and military personnel. It is one of Congress’ most basic and fundamental responsibilities.
The NDAA recently passed by Congress provides one of the largest funding boosts our military has received in eight years at $631.5 billion, with a $28.5 billion increase for essential readiness recovery. These funds will be directed at increasing military size, equipment maintenance, readiness overseas, personnel support and much more.
Over the past fifteen years, the nature of our defense needs have changed dramatically. The emergence and rise of terrorism has fundamentally altered the challenges we face, as well as the tools and policies necessary to meet them.
During World War II, and in the subsequent decades that followed, the biggest national security threats to the United States were nation states. Preeminent among them were the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and North Korea. Even as late as the 1990s, we were engaged in military action with another country, Iraq. Now, however, we are at war with organizations like Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and Hezbollah.
Following the deadly terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, President Bush sought and received an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) as required by the Constitution. Since then, we have been in a constant state of war in the Middle East, operating under two Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). One, passed in 2001, specifically addressed “those responsible for the September 11 attacks.” The other, passed in 2003, specifically authorized the use of force against Iraq. Since then, despite being effectively at war continually, Presidents have failed to seek, and Congress has failed to pass, a new AUMF.
In the recently passed NDAA, I submitted an amendment to direct the president to seek a new AUMF that recognizes the changes in the enemy we are currently fighting. Neither in the 2001 nor in the 2003 AUMF orders mention Syria or ISIS or any other nation or organization with whom we are currently at war with. In my opinion, this is an abdication of Congress’ responsibility to declare war or to authorize military force. Not only is this irresponsible, it is a violation of our sworn Constitutional duties.
I am and will always be a strong supporter of the military and of the brave men and women who volunteer to serve. We owe it to them to reaffirm our collective support for the missions in which they are engaged. We owe it to the Commander in Chief and his top national security advisors to debate the circumstances and strategies of waging the war against terror. Moreover, we owe it to our allies around the world to demonstrate that in this war on terror, we are indeed the “United” States of America.