President Obama signed an executive order on Thursday to prepare the American people for imminent “Space weather events” in the next 120 days.
The White house say that solar flares, and geomagnetic disturbances are likely to have a huge impact on electrical equipment on Earth that could pose a health and safety crisis across the globe.
Preparing for a complete electrical grid collapse, the executive order states:
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to prepare the Nation for space weather events, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy. Space weather events, in the form of solar flares, solar energetic particles, and geomagnetic disturbances, occur regularly, some with measurable effects on critical infrastructure systems and technologies, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite operations and communication, aviation, and the electrical power grid. Extreme space weather events — those that could significantly degrade critical infrastructure — could disable large portions of the electrical power grid, resulting in cascading failures that would affect key services such as water supply, healthcare, and transportation. Space weather has the potential to simultaneously affect and disrupt health and safety across entire continents.
And if the weather is extreme enough, Obama said, it “has the potential to simultaneously affect and disrupt health and safety across entire continents.” Solar winds could disable the electrical power grid, resulting in “cascading failures” that would affect almost every area of modern life — including basic health and safety issues like the water supply.
The executive order came as Obama prepared to travel to Pittsburgh for a technology conference focusing on artificial intelligence, space exploration, clean energy and precision medicine.
Like many executive orders, Obama’s directive instructs executive branch agencies on their responsibilities in preparing and responding to space weather events. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will coordinate the efforts of agencies across the government, including Defense, Commerce, Energy and NASA, which will work together to improve their ability to forecast space weather events and protect critical infrastructure from their effects.
Obama also ordered the release of federal data on previous space weather events.
Obama’s executive order also made public for the first time the existence of a previously unknown secret policy directive he signed on July 15. Presidential Policy Directive 40 established a new national continuity policy that defined the “national essential functions” of the federal government. Such directives, known as PPDs, are an often secret form of executive order in the realm of national security.