Obama Administration: Libya Operation Has Cost More than $716 Million, Does Not Require Congressional Authorization

In a report revealing that the total cost of US intervention in Libya as of June 3 has been $716 million and will reach $1.1 billion by the end of September, the Obama administration today told congressional leaders in a report (click HERE for an unauthorized version) that the role of the US military is so limited, congressional authorization is not needed.

“The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplated by the Resolution’s 60 day termination provision,” wrote two officials with the Pentagon’s legislative affairs office. “U.S. forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in a multinational coalition, whose operations are both legitimated by and limited to the terms of a United Nations Security Council Resolution that authorizes the use of force solely to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under attack or threat of attack and to enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo.”

The argument is similar to one the President made in a letter to congressional leaders last month .

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that“the creative arguments made by the White House raise a number of questions that must be further explored. Regardless, the Commander-in-Chief has a responsibility to articulate how U.S. military action is vital to our national security and consistent with American policy goals. With Libya, the President has fallen short on this obligation. We will review the information that was provided today, but hope and expect that this will serve as the beginning, not the end, of the President’s explanation for continued American operations in Libya.”

Other details in the report include:

After turning over full command and control responsibility to a NATO-led coalition on March 31, “three-quarters of the over 10,000 sorties flown in Libya have now been by non-U.S. coalition partners, a share that has increased over time” and “All 20 ships enforcing the arms embargo are European or Canadian.”

  • “The overwhelming majority of strike sorties are now being flown by our European allies while American strikes are limited to the suppression of enemy air defense and occasional strikes by unmanned Predator UAVs against a specific set of targets, all within the UN authorization, in order to minimize collateral damage in urban areas.”
  • What does the US do? “The United States provides nearly 70 percent of the coalition’s intelligence capabilities and a majority of its refueling assets, enabling coalition aircraft to stay in the air longer and undertake more strikes.”

In a conference call with reporters, a senior administration official insisted that the administration was “in no way putting into question the constitutionality of the War Powers resolution. As you know, we filed the initial report in this matter before the character of the mission changed. We are operating now in this reconfigured mission consistent with the War Powers resolution, and as you know, we've also sought from Congress continuing authorization.”

Added another senior official: “we're now in a position where we're operating in a support role. We're not engaged in any of the activities that typically over the years in war powers analysis is considered to constitute hostilities within the meaning of the statute. We're not engaged in sustained fighting. There's been no exchange of fire with hostile forces. We don't have troops on the ground. We don't risk casualties to those troops. None of the factors, frankly, speaking more broadly, has risked the sort of escalation that Congress was concerned would impinge on its war-making power.”

But a bipartisan group of ten lawmakers filed a lawsuit against President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates disputing these assertions.

“We believe that the law was violated,” said Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio. “We have asked the courts to move to protect the American people from the results of these illegal policies.”

-Jake Tapper

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