An executive order with ample reason for concern

The executive order signed by Obama March 16, 2012, authorizes widespread federal (and often military) control and manipulation of the national economy and resources “under both emergency and non-emergency conditions” as well as the right to install “government owned equipment” in private industrial facilities.

It is understandable that reasonable precautions and preparations should be taken for defense and emergency conditions. The question here is what is “reasonable” and democratic – and to what extent does THIS kind of preparation actually make sense when compared, for example, to developing decentralized energy and industrial capacity which is less susceptible to attack. (We won’t even mention here the development of nonviolent “civilian based defense” as advocated by Harvard historian Gene Sharp to make a country ungovernable by a domestic dictatorship or foreign power.)

I recommend that you read over the whole executive order. However, for your convenience, I’ve excerpted particularly interesting parts of it below. When reading, contemplate the implications of what you read for the economy, for democracy and liberty, for international relations (especially when helping friendly dictators or organizing wars against countries who control “strategic materials” that we want), for the “military industrial complex” (with its cronyism, corruption and “revolving door”), for our ability to deal with emerging crises (especially long-term ones like climate change), and for the prospects for transition to a more resilient and just society.

You should note that most of the powers granted by this executive order are taken under the authority of Title 50 of the US Code,which includes, among many other things, national emergencies – and that the US has been under an official State of National Emergency since Sept 14, 2001 – a state that President Obama last year extended to Sept 14, 2012. 

So anything in this executive order could potentially be implemented at any time. Interestingly I can find nothing in mainstream media about it. Most of the response is heated commentary from conservative/libertarian groups and bloggers. The wikipedia article about it…
concludes “While some have labeled the executive order totalitarian and preparation for peace-time martial law it has also been called mostly a consolidation of existing laws and directives.” I’m not clear why the latter perspective invalidates the former perspective. In any case, it seems to me worthy of public attention and dialogue – at least as much as most of the rest of the news.



Text in quotes excerpted from…
Short URL:
Executive Order of March 16, 2012
National Defense Resources Preparedness

The president has the power “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…under both emergency and non-emergency conditions” (Section 201a and b)

Aspects of the U.S. society and economy subject to control under this executive order are specfied in Section 201a (as below) and are defined in
Sec. 801. Definitions. The powers described above are “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.” (Section 201a)

The president has the power, through his cabinet secretaries, “to control the general distribution of any material (including applicable services) in the civilian market.” (Section 201e)

“The head of each agency engaged in procurement for the national defense is delegated the authority of the President…to make provision for purchases of, or commitments to purchase, an industrial resource or a critical technology item for Government use or resale, and to make provision for the development of production capabilities, and for the increased use of emerging technologies in security program applications, and to enable rapid transition of emerging technologies.” (Section 303a)

“The Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of the Interior…are each delegated the authority of the President… to encourage the exploration, development, and mining of strategic and critical materials and other materials.” (Section 306)

“The head of each agency engaged in procurement for the national defense is delegated the authority of the President… to: (a) procure and install additional equipment, facilities, processes, or improvements to plants, factories, and other industrial facilities owned by the Federal Government and to procure and install Government owned equipment in plants, factories, or other industrial facilities owned by private persons; (b) provide for the modification or expansion of privately owned facilities…” (Section 308)

“The head of each agency engaged in procurement for the national defense is delegated the authority of the President …to take appropriate action to ensure that critical components, critical technology items, essential materials, and industrial resources are available from reliable sources when needed to meet defense requirements during peacetime, graduated mobilization, and national emergency. Appropriate action may include restricting contract solicitations to reliable sources…” (Section 310) [The power to determine “reliable sources” could be helpful when assisting friends in certain corporations to bypass competitive bidding.]

“There is established in the executive branch a National Defense Executive Reserve (NDER) composed of persons of recognized expertise from various segments of the private sector and from Government (except full time Federal employees) for training for employment in executive positions in the Federal Government in the event of a national defense emergency…. The head of an agency may activate an NDER unit, in whole or in part, upon the written determination of the Secretary of Homeland Security that an emergency affecting the national defense exists and that the activation of the unit is necessary to carry out the emergency program functions of the agency.” (Section 501a&e)

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