An executive order issued May 1 by President Trump declares a national emergency regarding the threat posed by “the unrestricted acquisition or use” in the U.S. of bulk-power system electric equipment made by “foreign adversaries,” and lays the groundwork for the government to ban the use of that equipment going forward.

The order does not identify any particular foreign adversaries by name, but warns they are “increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities” in the U.S. bulk-power system that “supports our national defense, our vital emergency services, our critical infrastructure, our economy, and our way of life.”

“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,” the order says. “Although maintaining an open investment climate in bulk-power system electric equipment, and in the United States economy more generally, is important for the overall growth and prosperity of the United States, such openness must be balanced with the need to protect our Nation against a critical national security threat.”

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To deal with that threat, the White House said the order “prohibits certain future transactions” involving bulk-power equipment if the government determines the equipment is connected to a foreign adversary.  Helping to make that determination will be the secretaries of Energy and Homeland Security, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Director of National Intelligence.

The order sets up a Task Force on Federal Energy Infrastructure Procurement Policies Related to National Security, and delegates to the Energy Secretary the authority to block pending and future deals involving bulk-power equipment.

In its March report, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission recommended Congress provide a process for identifying and managing risks in critical infrastructure like the energy sector. Under the Executive Order, the Task Force will “evaluate the methods and criteria used to incorporate national security considerations into energy security and cybersecurity policymaking.”

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.