Legislation rolled out on Monday would require the U.S. Defense Department to inform lawmakers regarding "a variety of options" for potential military involvement in the Syrian civil war and what resources would be needed to carry them out.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon (R-Calif. unveiled his fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which allows $552.1 billion in spending for national defense and $85.8 billion for overseas contingency operations in the budget year that begins on Oct. 1.
Republican lawmakers have been critical of the Obama administration's restrained response to the 2-year-old conflict in Syria, which is believed to have killed more than 80,000 people and to have involved use of chemical weapons. President Obama last year said chemical attacks or proliferation would cross a "red line" and prompt a strong U.S. response, but Washington has staked hopes for a resolution on a planned international peace conference and sought additional evidence to clarify allegations of chemical-weapon use in Syria.
Pentagon officials have said they are making plans for threats posed by the civil war, including for ensuring the Assad government's arsenal of nerve and blister agents does not get loose. However, there has been no sign that Washington and its partner governments are prepared to institute a no-fly zone over Syria, much less commit actual troops in a potential intervention against Damascus.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) fears an administration "failure to identify key national security interests" in the Syrian civil war has resulted in "a hesitance to develop military options," says a summary of the draft legislation.
The legislation "requires the department brief the Armed Services committees on a variety of options in Syria and resources required to execute them," according to the summary. "The proposal also expresses a Sense of Congress that President Obama's stated red lines must be enforced."
The bill would provide up to $4 million for training and supplies to aid military and civilian emergency agencies in Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and other regional states "to respond effectively to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction in Syria and the region." The move would be based on the "understanding that unilateral response to the Syrian crisis is not in America's best interest," the bill summary states.
The full committee is scheduled to mark up the bill on Wednesday.