Cybersecurity

Trump wants foreign gear out of the U.S. grid

By Iren Moroz shutterstock ID 566799760 

An executive order issued by the Trump administration May 1 declared a national emergency and imposes new restrictions on the purchase and use of foreign-made equipment and technology used in the U.S. bulk-power system.

In the order, President Donald Trump wrote that foreign adversaries are "increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in the United States bulk-power system" and argued that relying on such equipment constitutes an "unusual and extraordinary threat" that makes it easier for those nations to develop and exploit cybersecurity weaknesses.

The order covers numerous items used in bulk-power system substations, control rooms and power generating stations, such as industrial control systems, reactors, capacitors, transformers, circuit breakers, turbines and other equipment.

"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," the order states.

Effective immediately, the action bars any company or individual under U.S. jurisdiction from buying, importing, transferring or installing bulk-power system electric equipment from entities that are owned in whole or in part by foreign governments or nationals if the federal government deems it a national security threat.

The order gives the Secretaries of Energy, Defense, Homeland Security and the Directors of National Intelligence and Office of Management and Budget the authority to determine whether a specific transaction poses "undue risk of sabotage to or subversion of" the design, integrity, manufacturing, production, distribution, installation, operation or maintenance of the bulk-power system, creates risk within U.S. critical infrastructure or otherwise poses an unacceptable risk to national security.

It also empowers the Secretary of Energy to set down conditions for alleviating those concerns, publish criteria to pre-qualify certain subsets of equipment for sale to U.S. entities, nix pending and future deals and determine which countries or individuals would be covered under the order.

The action also establishes a new federal task force that will focus on procurement of energy infrastructure, information sharing about risk management practices and develop guidance on how to legally purchase bulk-power system equipment. That task force will also be responsible for an annual report summarizing its findings and recommendations.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a former senior staff writer at FCW.

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