Edward Markey

From the office of:

Edward Markey

From: The Honorable Barbara Lee
Date: 11/3/2014

Dear Colleague:

On Sunday, the New York Times’Editorial Board published a powerfuleditorial calling on Congress to examine the rising costs of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Times directly addresses the questions surrounding the long-term strategy of this war and the lack of congressional authorization for what we now know will be a multi-year military effort, stating that “Congress has a responsibility to take a hard look at the long-term goal of the military mission and its projected cost.  It has skirted that duty for too long.”

Congress has a constitutional responsibility to debate and authorize war. It is long past time for Congress to have a robust debate on the long-term military, economic, and national security costs of this war on the United States.


Barbara Lee

Member of Congress



The New War’s Rising Cost



The Pentagon disclosed last week that America’s ever-shifting new war in the Middle East has cost taxpayers more than half a billion dollars since it began in August. Yet Congress has not bothered to hold a vote to authorize the Obama administration’s decision to get into another war.

As the price tag of the military campaign in Iraq and Syria rises, it might seem reasonable to expect that Congress would have to consider the state of the effort and appropriate funding for it. Thanks to the dysfunctional politics of defense budgeting, it turns out Congress won’t have to — at least not anytime soon.

As of Oct. 16, the air campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, had cost $580 million, according to the Pentagon. The military is paying for the bombing sorties using the Overseas Contingency Operations budget, a flexible fund established for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the Afghan war drawing to a close this year, the Obama administration had sought to cut that fund from the nearly $85 billion appropriated for 2014 to $59 billion for 2015. But because lawmakers were not able to pass a budget in time, the fund will continue at last year’s level under a continuing resolution that ends in December and is likely to be extended until the spring.

Authorizing a new defense budget would force lawmakers to take stock of the military action that was initially billed as a limited defensive measure before the White House said that it was likely to last for years. It would also serve as an opportunity to revisit the dubious legal authority the White House is relying on.

American officials continue to be alarmingly vague about a central unanswered question about the military campaign against the Islamic State: whether it formally or implicitly represents a shift in American policy toward the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Washington has called for Mr. Assad’s ouster and has provided limited support to rebel factions fighting the state. But the United States must clarify what its goals are concerning Mr. Assad, some senior administration officials believe, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, as Mark Landler of The Times reported recently.

The Pentagon says the bombing campaign has dealt the Islamic State setbacks in the battlefield. But the group remains strong and continues to make inroads in key parts of Syria and Iraq. Military officials have said curiously little in recent weeks about Khorasan, a militant group they described during the early stages of the airstrikes in Syria as posing an imminent threat to the United States. The vague and at times contradictory information the government has provided about that group, and the broader strategy, shows a distressing level of improvisation.

The past few weeks have also presented reminders of the risks of the military mission. Officials at the Pentagon are worried about reports that Islamic State fighters have acquired shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, which could be used to bring down American aircraft. Those fighters recently took credit for shooting down an Iraqi military helicopter; the group posted online a manual instructing fighters how to use one of the missiles to bring down Apache helicopters, one of the attack aircraft the Pentagon has been using.

Congress has a responsibility to take a hard look at the long-term goal of the military mission and its projected cost. It has skirted that duty for too long.