White House Calls Executive Order ‘Standard and Routine’ After Web Eruption

March 19, 2012 - 4:23 PM
Obama

President Barack Obama boards Air Force One before his departure from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Friday, March, 16, 2012. Obama is traveling to Chicago and Atlanta for campaign fundraisers. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(CNSNews.com) – An executive order that created much online buzz over the weekend is essentially an update to existing law on disaster preparedness, which hadn’t been updated to reflect the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, a conservative national defense analyst told CNSNews.com. Meanwhile, the White House asserted Monday that the order was not issued in order to prepare for war with Iran.

On Friday, President Barack Obama issued an executive order titled, the National Defense Resources Preparedness, updating existing national security and disaster response – enacted by the 1950 Defense Production Act – to include the DHS, a department established in 2003.

There were numerous tweets and blogs that alleged the order threatened “martial law” while another asserted the order meant the administration was preparing to go to war with Iran.

That wasn’t the case, said James Jay Carafano, director of the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.

“It’s recognizing which responses migrate to the Department of Homeland Security under civil defense responsibility,” Carafano told CNSNews.com. “It’s catching up to the 2003 law. It doesn’t seem to be claiming any new federal responsibility and is consistent with the law since the 1950s.”

If anything, he said the action should have come sooner.

“Quite honestly, it’s sad that it has taken this long to get around to this,” Carafano continued. “It means they are not paying enough attention to updating a disaster plan. It’s been on the back burner for these guys. Rather than attack him for doing this, we should ask why hasn’t he done this sooner.”

The order first explains responsibilities of the Homeland Security Department in Section 104b. Section 202c explains that DHS will have authority in an emergency regarding “civil defense and continuity of government.” The order also addresses the potential response for energy shortages, a chemical or biological attack, and securing military equipment.

Fox News’ Ed Henry asked during the White House briefing, “The president issued an executive order Friday on disaster preparedness. There was some online commentary saying this would give executive branch power to allocate food and water in peace time and war time. And there are some conservative blogs pushing the notion that this suggests the White House is preparing for war with Iran. Could you explain what this executive order does?”

Carney laughed at the question.

“Well, I cannot explain that reaction to it. I think it was a fairly standard and routine piece of business,” Carney said. “The president’s approach to our dealings with Iran I think is clear when he addressed it at length a couple of weeks ago. We are aggressively pursuing a policy focused on tightening sanctions against Iran, increasing the pressure on Iran, increasing the isolation of Iran.”

A portion of the executive order says executive branch departments and agencies shall “be prepared, in the event of a potential threat to the security of the United States, to take actions necessary to ensure the availability of adequate resources and production capability, including services and critical technology, for national defense requirements.”

The order goes on to address both war and peace time responsibilities.

“The Secretary of each agency delegated authority under subsection (a) of this section (resource departments) shall plan for an issue regulations to prioritize and allocate resources and establish standards and procedures by which the authority shall be used to promote the national defense, under both emergency and non-emergency conditions,” the order says. “Each Secretary shall authorize the heads of other agencies, as appropriate, to place priority ratings on contracts and orders for materials, services, and facilities needed in support of programs approved under section 202 of this order.”