Trump’s new order to protect U.S. bulk power system from foreign threats

President Trump has signed an executive order prohibiting bulk power system equipment from foreign companies that his administration believes could put the U.S. electricity system at risk.

The Executive Order on Securing the United States Bulk Power System authorizes Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to prohibit federal agencies and U.S. entities from acquiring, transferring or installing bulk power system equipment in “which any foreign country or foreign nation has any interest and the transaction poses an unacceptable risk to national security.”

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The order does not single out any country but many have interpreted the new rule to imply that equipment from China could be prohibited. The Trump Administration and China have been locked in a multi-year trade battle over tariffs and intellectual property rights, among other issues.

“Today, President Trump demonstrated bold leadership to protect America’s bulk-power system and ensure the safety and prosperity of all Americans,” said Secretary Brouillette. “It is imperative the bulk-power system be secured against exploitation and attacks by foreign threats.  This Executive Order will greatly diminish the ability of foreign adversaries to target our critical electric infrastructure.”

The federal government spends millions on bulk power system components annually. Current procurement rules favor contracts based on lowest cost bidders, but the DOE release noted that made the process vulnerable that can exploited by malicious actors.

“Evolving threats facing our critical infrastructure have only served to highlight the supply chain risks faced by all sectors, including energy, and the need to ensure the availability of secure components from American companies and other trusted sources,” reads the DOE release on the executive order.

Accordingly, under this Executive Order, the Secretary of Energy is authorized to do the following:

  • Establish and publish criteria for recognizing particular equipment and vendors as “pre-qualified” (pre-qualified vendor list)
  • Identify any now-prohibited equipment already in use, allowing the government to develop strategies and work with asset owners to identify, isolate, monitor, and replace this equipment as appropriateà‚ 
  • Work closely with the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior; the Director of National Intelligence; and other appropriate Federal agencies to carry out the authorities and responsibilities outlined in the Executive Order. à‚ à‚ 

Additionally, a Task Force led by Secretary Brouillette will develop energy infrastructure procurement policies to ensure national security considerations are fully integrated into government energy security and cybersecurity policymaking. The Task Force will consult with the energy industry through the Electricity and Oil and Natural Gas Subsector Coordinating Councils to further its efforts on securing the BPS.

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