January 12, 2017

In Hearing For Secretary Of Defense Nominee General Mattis, Kaine Makes Case For Congressional Action On Authorization For Use Of Force As Fundamental Aspect Of Civilian Control Of The Military

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, participated in a confirmation hearing for Gen. James Mattis, President-Elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defense. During the hearing, Kaine pressed Mattis on whether he believes we need a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). With Mattis requiring a special Congressional waiver in order to serve in the civilian post of Defense Secretary only three years after leaving the Marine Corps, Kaine stressed the point that Congressional engagement on matters of war is a fundamental tenet of civilian control of the military.

Kaine also praised Mattis’ efforts to improve understanding between military and civilian life, something Kaine has sought to address with respect to the way servicemembers transition into the civilian workforce. Thanks to Kaine’s efforts to improve and expand civilian credentialing, active duty servicemembers must be provided with the tools they need to obtain civilian credentials for skills they acquire through military training.

An excerpt of Kaine’s questioning is below:

Kaine: I associate myself with the comments of Senator Blumenthal that the traditional restriction to Secretary of Defense requires some period in civilian life before serving is a very important one, and I also agree with him that features of the times, features of frankly my concerns about the incoming administration, and features in your background, I think make this an opportune moment to make an exception. In particular the fact that you are someone who writes a lot and has a lot of things in your background and can write about, and you chose to work with others to write this book about warriors and citizens - that is at the very issue of the waiver, the connection between civilian and military life. The similarities and differences, trying to understand the different cultures and find strategies to better enable each other to understand. The fact that you chose to write about that is something that speaks particularly to your suitability for a waiver in this exceptional circumstance.

Kaine: A long term interest of mine is the belief we shouldn’t be at war without a vote of Congress. You authored a piece entitled “Using Military Force Against ISIS” in March 2015 in which you said, “a strong authorization to use military force supported by a majority of both parties in both houses of Congress will send an essential message of American steadfastness to our people and to the global audience. Its passage will demonstrate our country’s fundamental unity and enable a broader commitment to deal affirmatively with the real and growing menace.” Is that still your opinion?

Mattis: Yes, Senator. It is.

Kaine: Isn’t it the case that congressional engagement around an authorization for the use of military force is part of what civilian control is? We exercise civilian control of the military through appropriate congressional oversight and through taking our responsibilities like the Article 1 war powers responsibility seriously.

Mattis: I think congressional oversight and appropriations authorizations are a critical part of civilian control of the military.