As debate over the future of the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force continues, today the National Security Network has released a report contributing to the discussion. Ending the Endless War: An Incremental Approach to Repealing the 2001 AUMF, authored by Bill French with John Bradshaw, proposes a two-step process of “capping” and then “rolling back” this crucial legislation. The authors first envision introducing a sunset clause on the AUMF, with options for temporary reauthorization, and expressly limiting targeting authority to specified enemy organizations and geographic locations. This “cap” would “help prevent the expansion of conflict under a revised AUMF and keep the law as close as possible to its original purpose of pursuing those responsible for the September 11 attacks.” The authors then suggest a “rollback” occurring within this framework, allowing Congress to “dial down war authority over time by removing named enemy organizations and geographic areas from the authorization as circumstances permit.”

The report provides valuable historical analysis on the unique history and character of the 2001 AUMF, and presents an interesting proposal amid the current reform dialogue.

An excerpt from the executive summary is included below.

“[C]aution is required for modifying and repealing the 2001 AUMF. Refining and ultimately repealing the AUMF will require engaging in a presumably contentious political process in which potentially multiple proposals are offered. For the process of refining the law to be successful – even if not in the exact terms we propose – there are a number of pitfalls to avoid. In particular, proposals to expand the 2001 AUMF to serve as – or replace the law with – a general counterterrorism authorization against threats beyond al-Qaeda and the Taliban should be carefully avoided. Such an approach would not only have an entirely different purpose than the 2001 law, but also lack clear national security justification. While it is important to manage the risks posed by terrorist organizations that do not fit under the original AUMF or our proposal, that task can be sufficiently addressed with currently existing authorities and methods that do not involve the 2001 law, such as Article II powers, the War Powers Resolution, intelligence capabilities, law enforcement, or additional separate authorizations against other specific threats if necessary.

Fulfilling President Obama’s commitment to roll back and ultimately repeal the 2001 AUMF remains within reach. In fulfilling that objective, policymakers have the opportunity to reinforce American national security by correcting a legislative anomaly in the history of authorized use of force and changing course away from perpetual war.”