WASHINGTON: In a move large overlooked by the main stream media, President Obama issued his “National Defense Resources Preparedness” Executive Order this past Friday. This order is an expansion of an order issued concerning Disaster Preparedness in 1950.
The National Defense Resources Preparedness order gives the executive branch the power to allocate and control energy, production, transportation, food, and water resources by decree for the purpose of national defense and national security.
One small change by the president now makes this order no longer limited to wartime implementation, but allows for command and control of resources during peacetime. Note the following subtle change to the order in Section 101.
Section 101. Purpose. This order delegates authorities and addresses national defense resource policies and programs under the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended (the “Act”).
(b) assess on an ongoing basis the capability of the domestic industrial and technological base to satisfy requirements in peacetime and times of national emergency, specifically evaluating the availability of the most critical resource and production sources, including subcontractors and suppliers, materials, skilled labor, and professional and technical personnel
In addition to allowing for peacetime use of the order, Section 201 gives each cabinet head under the president specific powers should the order be executed that include absolute control over food, water, and other resource distributions.
Sec. 201. Priorities and Allocations Authorities. (a) The authority of the President conferred by section 101 of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2071, to require acceptance and priority performance of contracts or orders (other than contracts of employment) to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders, and to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense, is delegated to the following agency heads:
(1) the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to food resources, food resource facilities, livestock resources, veterinary resources, plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment and commercial fertilizer;
(2) the Secretary of Energy with respect to all forms of energy;
(3) the Secretary of Health and Human Services with respect to health resources;
(4) the Secretary of Transportation with respect to all forms of civil transportation;
(5) the Secretary of Defense with respect to water resources; and
(6) the Secretary of Commerce with respect to all other materials, services, and facilities, including construction materials.
(e) “Food resources” means all commodities and products, (simple, mixed, or compound), or complements to such commodities or products, that are capable of being ingested by either human beings or animals, irrespective of other uses to which such commodities or products may be put, at all stages of processing from the raw commodity to the products thereof in vendible form for human or animal consumption. “Food resources” also means potable water packaged in commercially marketable containers, all starches, sugars, vegetable and animal or marine fats and oils, seed, cotton, hemp, and flax fiber, but does not mean any such material after it loses its identity as an agricultural commodity or agricultural product.
This order is troubling for several reasons. As we have noted elsewhere, President Obama has been issuing executive orders with increasing frequency. Executive orders created for national defense and national preparedness are not unheard of in American history. However, each time such orders were executed, a constitutional crisis ensued, leaving the President issuing the order with almost dictatorial power.
President Lincoln ordered an end to freedom of speech and the press, while also revoking habeas corpus and the right to a fair trial ensured by the sixth amendment. When Congress failed to grant Woodrow Wilson extended power over resources during World War I, he invoked an executive order, giving him total control over transportation, businesses, industry, food, and other economic policies.
In both cases, it took the death of that president to restore full constitutional powers to the citizens of the United States.
Why President Obama signed this executive order is uncertain. However, recent happenings in the Middle East can only lead to speculation. Israel appears to be ready to stage a strike of some kind on Iran. As a result, crude oil prices rose sharply on Thursday and Friday. It is possible the president is setting the stage to declare a national emergency using the new executive order to seize control of America’s energy resources. Any interference in this process will quickly lead to shortages, rising prices, and civil unrest.
Whatever the reasons for the changes, people should be paying closer attention to these subtle yet profound challenges to the Constitution.