Securing the grid by moving tech from lab to market

White House tightens cybersecurity of electric grid

Arguing that foreign-made equipment used in the U.S. power grid makes it easier for other nations increases cybersecurity vulnerability, the Trump administration issued an executive order imposing new restrictions on numerous items used in bulk-power systems.

"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 May 1 order stated.

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 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 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.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a senior staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.

Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.

Johnson has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Hofstra University and a Master's degree in public policy from George Mason University. He can be contacted at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @derekdoestech.

Click here for previous articles by Johnson.


Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.