President Bush, preparing for possible war in the Persian Gulf, Wednesday issued an executive order giving the government authority to get priority delivery of any needed food or industrial material.
"The United States must have the capability to rapidly mobilize its resources in the interest of national security," Bush said in invoking the authority.Bush took the action as Secretary of State James A. Baker III held a pivotal meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz in Geneva seeking to get Iraq to withdraw from occupied Kuwait before the Jan. 15 deadline set by the United Nations.
Bush asked Congress Tuesday to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force in the gulf. The president summoned supporters to the White House Wednesday to discuss the resolutions that the House and Senate will debate later in the week.
In the executive order on "National Security Industrial Responsiveness,"Bush declared, "to achieve prompt delivery of articles, products and materials to meet national security requirements, the government may place orders and require priority performance of these orders."
Bush invoked authority under the Defense Production Act of 1950. It gives the government authority to claim first priority on the nation's productions of a wide range of products, from oil to trucks to machinery.
Bush's action gives the Secretary of Agriculture authority to place orders for prompt delivery of all food resources; the Secretary of Energy authority over energy; the Secretary of Transportation authority over all forms of civil transportation; and the Secretary of Commerce authority over other articles and materials, including construction materials.
Bush said the authority will not be used until Defense Secretary Dick Cheney determines prompt delivery of the materials "for the exclusive use of the armed forces of the United States is in the interest of national security," and until Energy Secretary James D. Watkins makes a similar determination about materials for the atomic energy program.
He instructed federal departments and agencies to amend their rules and regulations to reflect the new authorities.
Bush said failure by Congress to pass a resolution backing the use of force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait if Saddam Hussein fails to withdraw his forces by Jan. 15 would "only encourage Iraqi intransigence."
Bush, facing challenges in Congress on his authority to go to war in the Persian Gulf, appealed to lawmakers to pass a resolution like the one by the United Nations Security Council that authorized "the use of all necessary means" to free Kuwait.
But he signaled his willingness to order American troops into battle against Iraq's army of occupation, with or without congressional approval.
"I am determined to do whatever is necessary to protect America's security. I ask Congress to join with me in this task," Bush wrote leaders of the House and Senate.
Bush said it would have strengthened Baker's handif he could have presented such a congressional resolution to Aziz at Wednesday's meeting in Geneva.