U.S. President Donald Trump on May 1 signed an executive order that seeks to secure America’s bulk power system (BPS) from foreign adversaries.
The bulk power system is vital to the country’s energy security, supporting national defense, emergency services, critical infrastructure, and the economy. It encompasses the facilities and control systems necessary for operating an interconnected electric energy transmission network and electric energy from generation facilities needed to maintain transmission reliability.
“It is imperative the bulk-power system be secured against exploitation and attacks by foreign threats,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said. “This Executive Order will greatly diminish the ability of foreign adversaries to target our critical electric infrastructure.”
Each year, the federal government invests in a range of BPS components, but current government procurement rules often result in contracts being awarded to the lowest-cost bids. This is seen as a vulnerability that can be exploited by those with malicious intent. Evolving threats facing critical infrastructure highlight the supply chain risks faced by all sectors, including energy.
The executive order seeks to ensure the availability of secure components from American companies and other trusted sources. It prohibits federal agencies or individuals from acquiring, transferring, or installing BPS equipment in which any foreign country or foreign national has any interest and the transaction poses an unacceptable risk to national security or the security and safety of American citizens.
Specifically, it would establish criteria for recognizing particular equipment and vendors as pre-qualified. Also, it would identify any now-prohibited equipment already in use, which would allow the government to develop strategies and work with asset owners to identify, isolate, monitor, and replace this equipment as appropriate.
It also authorizes the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior; the Director of National Intelligence; and other appropriate federal agencies to work closely together to carry out the responsibilities outlined in the executive order.
A task force led by Brouillette will develop energy infrastructure procurement policies to ensure national security considerations are 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.
The Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which represents U.S. investor-owned electric companies, said the action by the president reinforces that grid security remains a priority for the administration.
“We have long maintained that grid security is a shared responsibility, and addressing dynamic threats to the grid requires vigilance and coordination that leverages both government and industry resources,” EEI President Tom Kuhn said.
“EEI’s members, through the CEO-led Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, work closely with the Department of Energy (DOE) to address underlying threats to supply chain security,” he said, adding that the executive order (EO) reflects that collaboration and also provides new ways to mitigate threats to the energy grid.
“We look forward to our continued partnership with the Administration and to working with DOE and other government stakeholders to implement this new EO, and we will continue to ensure that we are sourcing critical equipment from reputable manufacturers.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also backs the initiative. “I’m pleased that the President has directed agencies across the federal government to work together to make sure we have safe and secure supply chains for critical infrastructure like the bulk power system,” Manchin said.