Press Releases (Adobe Acrobat Reader is required):
February 28, 2007 - Miller Center Announces National War Powers Commission - PDF
National War Powers Commission
In keeping with its tradition of assembling national commissions of major stature, the Miller Center has convened the National War Powers Commission, a private bipartisan panel led by former Secretaries of State James A. Baker, III and Warren Christopher. The Commission will examine how the Constitution allocates the powers of beginning, conducting, and ending war.
When armed conflict is looming, debates about separation of powers and the uncertainty they often generate can impair relations among the branches of government, cast doubt on the legitimacy of government action, and prevent focused attention on policy. Armed conflicts with non-state actors and other non-traditional “wars,” as well as the courts' involvement in war powers questions, make the Commission’s work relevant.
The Commission intends to produce a report making recommendations to assist Presidents, Congresses, Courts, and other policymakers in addressing war powers issues. When they are issued, the Commission’s recommendations will be entirely prospective in nature and not applicable to the present presidential Administration or present Congress.
The Commission’s work and deliberations will entail an analysis of various legal issues, as well as historical and practical considerations. The Commission intends to rely on existing scholarship, the wide experience among its members, and the counsel of other experts. Commission members hope their report will make a positive contribution to the public debate on the proper exercise of war powers; educate the public about these crucially important issues; and promote greater agreement and more productive working relationships among the branches of government. The Commission intends to make its report and recommendations available to members of government, scholars, and the media.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who is on the Commission?
The Commission will be led by its Co-Chairs, former Secretaries of State James A. Baker, III and Warren Christopher.
Its members are:
- Slade Gorton, former U.S. Senator from Washington;
- Lee H. Hamilton, former Member of Congress from Indiana;
- Carla A. Hills, former U.S. Trade Representative;
- John O. Marsh, Jr., former Secretary of the Army;
- Edwin Meese, III, former U.S. Attorney General;
- Abner J. Mikva, former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit;
- J. Paul Reason, former Commander in Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet;
- Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor;
- Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University; and
- Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution.
2. Why convene a National Commission on War Powers?
Deciding how and when to commit troops to combat is one of our government’s most important decisions. Members of Congress, Presidents, and proponents of each branch’s respective powers often disagree about who has the authority to begin, conduct, and end a war.
Such disagreements can hurt our government’s credibility, hinder relations between the President and Congress, and engender lengthy debates about separation of powers. Such disputes can also undermine confidence in government.
3. What are the goals of the Commission?
The Commission’s principal goal is to produce a bipartisan report that makes recommendations about how Presidents and Congresses could best exercise their respective war powers. When they are issued, the Commission’s recommendations will be entirely prospective in nature and not applicable to the present presidential Administration or present Congress. Any such report will require an analysis of various legal issues, as well as historical and practical considerations. The Commission intends to rely on existing scholarship, the wide experience among its members, and the counsel of other experts. Commission members hope the report makes a positive contribution to the public debate on the proper exercise of war powers; educates the public about these crucially important issues; and promotes greater agreement and more productive working relationships among the branches of government. The Commission intends to make its report and recommendations available to members of government, scholars, and the media.
4. Who will serve the Commission?
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin will serve as the Commission’s historical advisor.
John T. Casteen, III, President of the University of Virginia, and David W. Leebron, President of Rice University, will serve as ex officio members of the Commission.
John C. Jeffries, Jr., Dean and the Emerson Spies and Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, and W. Taylor Reveley, III, Dean and the holder of the John Stewart Bryan Professorship of Jurisprudence at the William & Mary School of Law, are Co-Directors.
5. Didn’t the War Powers Resolution of 1973 address these issues?
The War Powers Resolution did address many of these issues, but both Congresses and Presidents often have ignored its substance and questioned its constitutionality for the past three decades.
6. Will the Commission publish a report?
The Commission anticipates publishing a report of its conclusions in a format to be determined.
7. What is the Commission’s web address?
For more information, visit www.millercenter.org/warpowers.
8. Is this Commission affiliated with the federal government or has it been chartered by Congress?
No. The Commission receives no taxpayer money and is not dependent on federal appropriations. It is being organized and sponsored by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. The James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy at Rice University, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, Stanford Law School, the University of Virginia School of Law, and the William & Mary School of Law serve as partnering institutions.
9. What is the Miller Center?
The University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs is a leading public policy institution that serves as a national meeting place where engaged citizens, scholars, students, media representatives and government officials gather in a spirit of nonpartisan consensus to research, reflect, and report on issues of national importance to the governance of the United States, with special attention to the central role and history of the presidency.
The Miller Center has more than fifty scholars and staff, including two Bancroft Prize winners. Former Virginia Governor and PBS Chairman Gerald Baliles became the Director of the Miller Center in April 2006.
10. What other National Commissions has the Miller Center convened?
The Miller Center has convened nine national commissions over the past quarter century, including the Commission on Federal Election Reform in 2001, co-chaired by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. President George W. Bush commended the Commission’s report in a Rose Garden ceremony, and its recommendations in large measure have been adopted into law. The Miller Center’s prior national commissions include: Presidential Press Conferences (1981); the Presidential Nominating Process (1982); Presidential Transitions and Foreign Policy (1986); Presidential Disability and the Twenty-Fifth Amendment (1988); the Presidency and Science Advising (1989); Choosing and Using Vice Presidents (1992); the Selection of Federal Judges (1996); and the Separation of Powers (1998).