President Trump last Friday issued an executive order aimed at securing the nation’s major power generation and high-voltage transmission systems, particularly from cyber-attacks, by prohibiting the acquisition and installation of electric equipment for the bulk-power system from foreign adversaries.
The directive, which applies to federal agencies and any entity or person in the U.S., authorizes the Secretary of Energy to establish a pre-qualified vendor list, identify equipment already in use that is now prohibited so that it can be isolated and replaced.
“The bulk-power system is a target of those seeking to commit malicious acts against the United States and its people, including malicious cyber activities, because a successful attack on our bulk-power system would present significant risks to our economy, human health and safety, and would render the United States less capable of acting in defense of itself and its allies,” Trump said in the executive order.
The new executive order comes nearly a year after one Trump signed last May 1 that is largely aimed at China and Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE and prohibits the acquisition of information and communications technology provided by suppliers that are controlled by or owned by governments of foreign adversaries (Defense Daily, May 15, 2019).
The nation’s bulk-power system is made up of four major networks that service the U.S. and Canada and includes generating resources and high-voltage transmission equipment. The system doesn’t include local distribution systems.
The executive order also establishes the Federal Energy Infrastructure Procurement Policies Related to National Security task force, led by the Department of Energy, that will “develop energy infrastructure procurement policies to ensure national security considerations are fully integrated into government energy security and cybersecurity policymaking,” the DoE said in a separate announcement.
The task force is directed to submit a report to the White House in one year on its progress, findings and recommendations.
“It is imperative the bulk-power system be secured against exploitation and attacks by foreign threats,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement. “This Executive Order will greatly diminish the ability of foreign adversaries to target our critical electric infrastructure.”
The executive order directs DoE to coordinate its work with the White House Office of Management and Budget and to consult with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and other departments and agencies.
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), an international regulatory authority that works to minimize risks to the reliability and security of the bulk-power system, welcomed the executive order, saying it will “help support activities already underway in NERC’s supply chain standards and other work.”