President oversteps with Libya mission

Published 9:35 am Saturday, June 4, 2011

by Randy Forbes

On Friday morning, I appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” program to discuss the United States’ ongoing involvement with the NATO-led military mission in Libya.

On March 19, the United States and its NATO allies launched Operation Odyssey Dawn, a military mission that was purported to establish a no-fly zone over major cities and air bases near the Libyan coast in order to prevent Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi from massacring his own people.

However, the President authorized the use of military force without first seeking permission from Congress as required by law.

The War Powers Resolution provides that the President may only legally authorize military action if there has been a declaration of war, specific statutory authorization, or a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces. Absent any of these circumstances, the President is not authorized to use military force.

Just days after the onset of military action, I had the opportunity to question Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as to where the President found the legal authority in the War Powers Act to launch a military operation in Libya. Secretary Gates failed not once, but twice, to point to any of the three explicit provisions authorizing military action and did not articulate clear mission goals or strategy. Since that time, the United States has transitioned leadership of the mission to NATO, but the cost of the action continues to mount—by roughly $2 million per day, according to Pentagon officials, while estimates of the cost of the initial operation range between $400 million and $1 billion.

Aside from questions of legal authority, lack of mission focus, and the high monetary cost, I also have grave concerns regarding U.S. assistance to Libyan resistance forces that, according to reports, include in their ranks many of the same fighters that have attacked U.S. military personnel in places like Iraq.

As a result, I supported Speaker Boehner’s resolution today that puts this Administration on notice.

The resolution, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 257-156, establishes that the President has not asked for congressional authorization, and that the Congress has not granted it; reasserts Congress’ constitutional role on funding; requires the President to provide within 14 days information on the mission that should have been provided from the start; and reaffirms the vote we took last week that says there should be no troops on the ground.

If the Administration fails to present to Congress the necessary information on the Libya mission within 14 days, then I believe Congress must exercise its subpoena power to compel Administration officials to provide answers on the future use of our military forces in Operation Odyssey Dawn, or remove all funding for the operation.

RANDY FORBES represents Western Tidewater in the U.S. House of Representatives. For contact information, see