The President's Executive Order on Defense Preparedness

I have just skimmed the Executive Order that Pres. Obama issued on Friday, asserting the POTUS’s control over national resources for defense preparedness purposes, and my first thought is that the context for updating this longstanding federal law now might be health care reform and infrastructure. In other words, repairing and/or replacing crumbling infrastructure, and having a unified, national system for ensuring that all Americans have access to affordable health care has a national security aspect to it — a very strong one, in my opinion. With the Supreme Court set to hear arguments in the legal challenge to the health care mandate in the Affordable Care Act, this might be one prong in the legal strategy the Obama administration is preparing.

As I indicated, I have not yet read the E.O. closely, but this was what occurred to me at first glance.

Of course, the usual suspects in rightie blogtopia are shrieking that the President has opened the door to martial law (despite the fact, as mentioned above, that Obama’s Executive Order is only an update to existing law). But rather than giving them undeserved links, I’ll point to this post by Doug Mataconis at the center-right Outside the Beltway:

Given the fact that it came out on a Friday afternoon and many people were likely paying attention to college basketball games and St. Patrick’s Day-related activities, it’s received very little attention in the news media but that hasn’t stopped the (mostly conservative) blogosphere from going into panic mode over it, although this was inspired no doubt in no small part due to the manner in which Kenneth Schortgen Jr. describes it in an Examiner piece:

On March 16th, President Obama signed a new Executive Order which expands upon a prior order issued in 1950 for Disaster Preparedness, and gives the office of the President complete control over all the resources in the United States in times of war or emergency.

The National Defense Resources Preparedness order gives the Executive Branch the power to control and allocate energy, production, transportation, food, and even water resources by decree under the auspices of national defense and national security. The order is not limited to wartime implementation, as one of the order’s functions includes the command and control of resources in peacetime determinations.


The purpose of President Obama signing this new Executive Order is yet unclear, however, it may coincide with information coming out of Israel yesterday that plans for a tactical or strategic strike on Iran are accelerating. Oil prices in Europe rose over $3 a barrel for Brent crude after the Israeli actions, and US oil prices rose $2 for WTI.

The Obama administration appears to be preparing for a long drawn out war in the Middle East, or at the very least, an expected crisis that will require the need to override Constitutional authority and claim dominion over all resources in the United States under the guise of national defense. With the rise in Disaster Preparedness growing for both individuals and states leading up to yesterday’s Executive Order, the mood of the nation points strongly towards some event or disaster that will require massive preparations on a national as well as local scale.

It all sounds pretty scary, and it wasn’t long before the usual suspects were citing this as evidence of some kind of plan for martial law, just as there were people on the left and far-right asserting that George Bush was going to declare martial law and cancel the elections in 2004 and 2008. Considering who it was who was spreading the meme that this was some kind of power grab by the Obama Administration, I wasn’t inclined to believe it to begin with. However, once you actually look at the facts (yes, I know, how dare I muddle up a good conspiracy theory with actual facts) it becomes pretty clear that not only is the reaction to this wildly over the top in some corners, but the Executive Order itself is nothing more than a restatement of policy that has been in place in decades and grants no authority to the President or the Cabinet that they don’t already have under existing law.

Doug also links to more rational commentary on the right.

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Kathy Kattenburg

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • More and more we are getting an imperial presidency. For all intents and purposes, Congress can be dispensed with on a day-to-day basis.
    All that’s required is an executive declaration of emergency or national security.

    It is worth remembering that the Founding Fathers were all traitors.

  • One major issue is that Executive Orders, to the seemingly 1% of Americans who know what they are (along with the Federal Register) is that these things are never issued in a way familiar to anyone who’s looked at, say a UNIX ‘diff’ readout. In Minnesota they are all officially designed with strikethrough font-face to indicate eliminated language, and underlines for new language. Thus you can get at least a slightly more coherent understanding of what’s changed. The stupid HR347 bill, same kind of problem. You read it and its appalling of course, but a lot of its appalling features are already in US Code, but its not shown that way.

    This is spooky stuff though, I mean its not like there is any accountability for EOs and they emerge without any formal avenue for public comment. Give me all 300K of those FBI National Security Letters along with the more secret HSPD (Homeland Security Presidential Directives) and NSPD (National Security Presidential Directives) and you have the bulk of the authoritarian self-contained executive branch government design. Add the classified contracts and you’ve got much of the main gravy train for the military-industrial patronage complex.

  • and college trained industrial agriculturists that have never applied hands to real soil can make the best decisions on feeding this country is fatally flawed.


    I did inhale.

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