WASHINGTON, D.C., March 28, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – A little-noticed executive order issued earlier this month would allow the federal government to seize all national resources (including food), draft civilians into the military or forced “labor,” regulate all communications, and ration health care to “promote the national defense.” Congress may be briefed on the government’s actions but lacks any power to alter them. This completes a “martial law matrix” that hands all national resources to Washington, a prominent author told LifeSiteNews.com.

Barack Obama issued the executive order, “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” on March 16.

Jim Garrison of The Huffington Post summarized its provisions:

• The Secretary of Defense has power over all water resources;
• The Secretary of Commerce has power over all material services and facilities, including construction materials;
• The Secretary of Transportation has power over all forms of civilian transportation;
• The Secretary of Agriculture has power over food resources and facilities, livestock plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment;
• The Secretary of Health and Human Services has power over all health resources;
• The Secretary of Energy has power over all forms of energy.

Each power includes all its component parts. For example, “Civil transportation includes movement of persons and property by all modes of transportation in interstate, intrastate, or foreign commerce within the United States, its territories and possessions, and the District of Columbia, and related public storage and warehousing, ports, services, equipment and facilities.” Similarly “Food resource” 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.”

“These are entirely illegitimate powers from a Constitutional perspective,” author and editor William Norman Grigg told LifeSiteNews.com. “There is not even a hint or a whisper or legitimacy here.”

“You’re dealing with someone who clearly doesn’t see the presidency as susceptible to any limits whatsoever, either legal or constitutional,” he said.

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Grigg, who is managing editor of Republic Magazine, said, “What is especially troubling is that he shows no compunction at all about exercising all of the powers that have been claimed by his predecessors and adding to that corpus of extra-constitutional presidential powers.”

These sweeping new powers may be invoked “in peacetime and in times of national emergency,” whenever they are “deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense.” The president would determine when those circumstances apply.

Congress would be briefed on the agencies’ actions – annually – but could not alter policy.

The president’s defenders, including some Republicans, say the executive order only updates the Defense Production Act of 1950 and of Bill Clinton’s Executive Order 12919, written in 1994. The chief difference is the new order transfers functions from FEMA to the Department of Homeland Security.

Ed Morrissey of Hot Air wrote, “Barack Obama may be arrogant, and the timing of this release might have looked a little strange, but this is really nothing to worry about at all.”

But Grigg says the change from a wartime to peacetime emergency alone is troubling.“When you’re dealing with semantic engineering that is that finely tuned, that looks very much like evidence of bad intent,” he said. “They have dispensed with the idea that there needs to be a discrete event that would trigger a national emergency is significant.”

The reliance on previous executive orders also troubles Grigg. “Obama has…spoken about the supposed virtues of the domestic regimentation of the entire civilian population along military lines,” he said. “That goes right back to Bernard Baruch,” chairman of the National War Industries Board under President Woodrow Wilson during World War I. He wrote in 1918, “We are living today in a highly organized state of socialism. The state is all; the individual is of importance only as he contributes to the welfare of the state.”

“That is an aspiration that has been alive in the bosom of pretty much every collectivist since time immemorial,” Grigg told LifeSiteNews.com.

Some who support the order are troubled by its reliance on a 62-year-old law. Doug Mataconis, who believes the executive order is nothing to worry about, wrote, “The fact that the President of the United States is still exercising authority granted during the Korean War and the height of the Cold War is yet another reflection of how power, once assumed by the Imperial Presidency, is never surrendered.”

The president’s defenders in both parties say the order is merely a worst case scenario in the event of a nuclear strike or catastrophic disaster that would disable the normal flow of daily life. This would let the federal government maintain order.

“There really is no strategic or tactical case to be made for executive dictatorship as an emergency management strategy,” Grigg said. “The problem here is the assumption that the best way to deal with that kind of tragedy is to centralize power and thereby give one convenient target to our enemies. In a strategic sense, that makes no sense.”

On the contrary, widely defusing and localizing power would make it more difficult for an enemy to completely disrupt national life.

“I think there really ought to be an element of humility being displayed by the same govt that conveyed the benefit of toxic FEMA trailers to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina,” he said.

However, the greatest loss is the loss of liberty, they say. Chuck Norris wrote, “enacting this martial law even during a time of peace is an unprecedented and out-of-control abuse of executive power…Our Founding Fathers never would have allowed it, and we shouldn’t, either.”

Some say that is doubly true under the current president. “By his actions he’s displayed a disposition that can be described as dictatorial,” Grigg told LifeSiteNews.com. “It’s a case of the man and the moment having met. They created this institutional architecture of executive dictatorship. Now the dictator is taking residence therein.”