WASHINGTON (Nov. 14, 2019) – The president’s recent actions in Syria have reignited conversations about Congress’ role in foreign affairs and declarations of war. In a new policy study, R Street Resident Senior Fellow of Governance Casey Burgat speaks to Congress’ capacity to reassert itself in these conversations.

Burgat finds that instead of providing an independent check on the president’s military authorities through oversight, congressional committees are so starved for resources that they have become dependent upon the information provided by the very agencies they are expected to oversee.

He argues that funding levels for the four House committees involved in foreign and military affairs have remained relatively flat since 2001, while funding levels for the Departments of Defense and State have increased over 60 percent during the same period.

Burgat determines that in order to regain its constitutional war power authorities and provide a vital check on presidential decision-making, Congress must find the political will to reinvest in its own internal resources, especially at the committee level.

He concludes that, “The legislative branch simply does not have the levels of staff resources, funding or expertise to conduct effective oversight of the executive branch, including—and perhaps even especially—on matters of foreign affairs, intelligence and national security.”