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Washington D.C.—In a letter to Defense Department, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee enlisted the assistance of Secretary Gates to ensure the Administration complies with the resolution regarding Libya operations passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), the committee’s chairman, urged Secretary Gates, and other senior members of the Administration, to actively engage Congress to clarify questions about the scope of US involvement in Libya, the White House’s strategy, and the duration of operations.

“If our fighting forces are sent into combat, Congress’ voice must be heard. Despite the fact that the White House failed to seek congressional authorization for Operation Odyssey Dawn, U.S. armed forces are continuing their participation in the NATO-led operation. It is my hope that the Obama Administration understands that this minimizes Congress’ constitutional role in matters of war and takes appropriate corrective actions,” stated McKeon. 

The Chairman specifically requested information about the cost of military operations, the administration’s justification for not seeking Congressional authorization for the use of force, the wider impact on Iraq and Afghanistan, and other areas of concern. The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Secretary Gates:

As you are aware, congressional authorization has neither been sought nor provided for the continuation of U.S. force presence in Libya. Although the U.S. House of Representatives has not voted to require the withdrawal of all U.S. forces, we urge the Administration not to underestimate the strength of the bipartisan concern regarding Libya. In fact, while members respect the President’s authority as Commander in Chief, it is quite possible that a resolution of disapproval could pass the House, unless the Administration provides the information necessary for Congress to conduct constitutional oversight. Likewise, support for this operation in the Senate is far from a certainty. 

In order to provide Congress with the information necessary for legislative oversight of this operation, the House has required the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Attorney General to submit to the House of Representatives, by June 17, 2011, copies of all documents and communication relating to consultation with Congress regarding the employment of U.S. forces in Operation Odyssey Dawn and Operation Unified Protector, as well as the War Powers Resolution as it relates to this military conflict. We appreciate your efforts to provide the relevant materials in your possession to the House of Representatives.

Concurrent with the submission of such information, we respectfully request your support within the Administration to advocate for the transmittal of additional details regarding the scope and duration of the U.S. military’s mission in Libya. Such information should include, at a minimum:

  • Justification for not seeking authorization by Congress for the use of military force in Libya; 
  • Specific commitments by the United States to continuing NATO activities relating to Operation Unified Protector and the scope and duration of such commitments; 
  • The total project cost to the United States resulting from our military, political and humanitarian efforts concerning Libya;
  • The impact on United States activities in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • The expected role of the United States in establishing a political structure to succeed the existing Libyan regime; and 
  • An assessment of the current capabilities of opposition forces and the consequences of a cessation of United States military activities on the viability of continued NATO operations and the opposition forces. 

Finally, as part of the Administration’s ongoing engagement efforts, we encourage you and other senior members of the Administration to continue to maintain a dialogue with Congress, and the American people, about our objectives in Libya as the operation evolves, and the activities of U.S. forces since hostilities commenced on March 19th. We thank you for providing witnesses and briefers for committee hearings and briefings and look forward to a continuing , direct engagement process, which may alleviate many members concerns. As always, your willingness to work with Congress and provide detailed information regarding ongoing military operations is valued.

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