Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

Should Congress Pass Obama’s ISIL AUMF; Repeal 2001 AUMF?

WHO: American University Experts on AUMFs and Presidential Power

WHAT: Proposed AUMF to Combat ISIL World-Wide

WHEN: February 19 - ongoing

WHERE: American University, in-studio, via telephone

BACKGROUND: President Obama's request for new Authority to Use Military Force (AUMF) to combat ISIL worldwide raises several issues including the validity of the 2001 AUMF, the language in the newly requested AUMF, and presidential authority. The American University experts below are available to discuss these issues and others.

Shoon Murray, School of International Service professor, focuses her research on the American foreign policy political process. Murray is an expert on the 2001 AUMF. Her latest article on the subject appears in Presidential Studies Quarterly Stretching the 2001 AUMF: A History of Two Presidencies. She is also author of the book, The Terror Authorization: The History and Politics of the 2001 AUMF (2014)and co-editor of Mission Creep The Militarization of US Foreign Policy?(2015) 

On the existing 2001 and 2002 AUMFs and the proposed 2015 ISIL AUMF, Murray says:

  • "The President's 2015 ISIL AUMF draft is a positive development in many ways: it asks Congress for proper authorization to conduct an on-going operation that the President has so far conducted questionably based on past AUMF's--2001 and 2002."
  • "The draft is clear that the new authorization would supercede one of the old AUMFs, namely the authorization to use force in Iraq from 2002. But a problem remains: the draft does not mention the much broader 2001 AUMF that was passed after 9/11 to authorize force against the perpetrators of that attack and those that harbored them. The 2001 AUMF has since been stretched by two presidents to cover actions that the Congressional representatives never intended, and was stretched again to cover ISIL."
  • "Without 1) stating that the new 2015 ISIL AUMF would supercede the old 2001 AUMF for the conflict with ISIL, and without 2) putting into the draft a clause to sunset the 2001 AUMF after 3 years, as did the earlier Senate Foreign Relations Committee draft and some other Congressional proposals, the new draft is more symbolic than real in terms of respecting congressional war authority." 

Lt. Gen. David Barno USA(Ret), School of International Service distinguished practitioner in residence, was senior American commander of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2003–2005. He signed a recent letter from the Center for the Study of the Presidency &Congress to members of Congress urging for a bipartisan authorization.

Lt. Gen. Barno is prepared to discuss the proposed restrictions on the use of ground combat forces, and whether the new AUMF request provides the president too much, or not enough, authorities in this realm.

Gordon Adams, School of International Service professor of foreign policy and co-editor of Mission Creep The Militarization of US Foreign Policy? 

On the AUMF proposal from the President and how it will be received in Congress, Adams says:

  • "The President is trying to thread a needle between flexibility and restraint. His proposal is not likely to make either the proponents of ground forces (McCain and others), nor the advocates of restraint (Schiff, Lee and others) very happy. It could be a long debate."

Chris Edelson, School of Public Affairs assistant professor of government, focuses his research on constitutional interpretation and presidential power. Edelson is the author of Emergency Presidential Power: From the Drafting of the Constitution to the War on Terror (2013).

On the AUMF and presidential power, Edelson says:

  • "The President illegitimately ordered the use of military force against ISIL without congressional approval six months ago. I am concerned there is an incorrect assumption that Congress can now "cure" that violation by giving approval now."

"Furthermore, the administration's draft AUMF is overly broad and would not set meaningful limits on presidential power."


American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 140 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.