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War Powers Resolution Reporting Project

War Powers Reporting by President, Purpose/Mission, and Domestic Legal Authority

The War Powers Resolution of 1973 requires Presidents to notify Congress within 48 hours of sending U.S. armed forces into hostilities or certain other situations abroad, and to provide specific information about those deployments. These “48-hour reports” are a primary means for Congress to ensure transparency and create the possibility of meaningful oversight of the President’s use of U.S. armed forces abroad.

<< Starting at the center, hover over segments of the chart to explore the full universe of WPR “48-hour reports,” arranged by Presidential Term, Purpose/Mission, and Domestic Legal Authority.

War Powers Resolution
Reporting Project

The War Powers Resolution (WPR) is a landmark statute passed after the Vietnam War. Its aim is to restore the constitutional balance between Congress and the President in deciding when the nation goes to war. To create the transparency necessary for achieving this goal, the WPR requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of introducing U.S. armed forces into hostilities, deploying combat-equipped forces, or substantially enlarging those deployments (“48-hour reports”).

This project creates the first publicly accessible, searchable database analyzing the contents of all unclassified 48-hour reports submitted to Congress since the WPR was enacted 45 years ago (over 100 in total). The living database, current through December 31, 2019 and to be updated regularly, provides a comprehensive understanding of practice under the crucial reporting provisions at the WPR’s foundation. It enables us to assess key questions about presidential exercise of war powers: Where and why are Presidents deploying armed forces abroad? How often do Presidents rely solely on their own constitutional authority to do so, and is that authority being stretched? Has reporting fulfilled the WPR’s requirements? In what ways are the WPR’s requirements insufficient to inform Congress of how the President is using our armed forces abroad, and in what ways is the WPR succeeding in providing meaningful transparency? Answers to these questions illuminated by this project will help lay the foundation for future study and reform.

Locations of WPR-Reported Activity by Administration

The map shows all 48-hour WPR reports for each presidential term since the WPR’s enactment, displayed by reported location. It reflects geographic boundaries at the time of the relevant report(s). Use the timeline to see specific terms or play through all.

*Note: The map does not include visual representation of one 48-hour report: the Sept. 24, 2001 reported deployment of “various combat-equipped and combat support forces to a number of foreign nations in the Central and Pacific Command areas of operations,” as it included no specific locations within those areas.

Purpose/Mission of WPR Reported Activity by Administration

The WPR requires presidents to report “the circumstances necessitating the introduction” of armed forces. This chord diagram shows the stated purpose or mission of WPR-reported activity, broken down by administration.

<< Hover over a president’s name on the left side of the chord diagram to show a breakdown of their 48-hour reports by purpose/mission. Hover over a purpose/mission on the right side of the diagram to see how it maps across different presidential administrations.

Saudi Arabia

Date

November 19, 2019

President

Donald Trump

Authority

Constitution (Art. II)

Stated Purpose/Mission

Advise/Assist

“To assure our partners, deter further Iranian provocative behavior, and bolster regional defensive capabilities”

Gabon

Date

January 04, 2019

President

Donald Trump

Authority

Constitution (Art. II)

Stated Purpose/Mission

Protect US citizens, property

“to be in position to support the security of United States citizens, personnel, and diplomatic facilities in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo”; “in response to the possibility that violent demonstrations may occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in reaction to the December 30, 2018, elections there”

Syria

Date

April 15, 2018

President

Donald Trump

Authority

Constitution (Art. II)

Stated Purpose/Mission

Humanitarian

“to degrade the Syrian military’s ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian government from using or proliferating chemical weapons”; “to promote the stability of the region, to deter the use and proliferation of chemical weapons, and to avert a worsening of the region’s current humanitarian catastrophe”

Syria

Date

April 08, 2017

President

Donald Trump

Authority

Constitution (Art. II)

Stated Purpose/Mission

Humanitarian

“to degrade the Syrian military’s ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian regime from using or proliferating chemical weapons, thereby promoting the stability of the region and averting a worsening of the region’s current humanitarian catastrophe.”