President Donald Trump signed an Executive order on Friday aimed at protecting the US power supply system from cyber-attacks and other threats. The implementation of the decree may create barriers to the import of energy equipment from Russia and China.
The document states that the threat to the American energy system is an emergency that allows the administration to establish a working group on procurement policies for energy infrastructure.
A senior Energy Department official says the decree is not aimed at any new threat but is the result of a process to strengthen the American energy system.
The order allows the Secretary of energy, after consulting with other officials, to prohibit the purchase, import, transfer, or installation of power equipment from opposing States to prevent possible sabotage of the US power supply system.
“It is essential that the energy supply system is protected from… the threat of foreign attacks,” says energy Minister Dan Brouillette. Implementing the decree, Brouillette noted, “will significantly reduce the ability of foreign adversaries to attack our critical electrical infrastructure.”
Power equipment refers to mechanisms and units used in substations, power plants, and control rooms, including nuclear reactors, capacitors, transformers, large and backup generators, and other equipment.
The names of opposing countries are not given in the decree, but in a document called “Assessing global threats in 2019,” former Director of National Intelligence Dan coats wrote that China, Russia, and some other countries use cyber technologies to monitor American infrastructure.
In 2018, the Trump administration accused the Russian government of conducting a series of cyberattacks that lasted for at least two years and targeted the power grid, including nuclear power and manufacturing facilities. That was the first time Washington publicly accused Moscow of hacking into the American energy infrastructure.
The power system not only provides electricity to homes and businesses but also supports military and emergency systems.
The US Department of Energy says that existing rules for purchasing equipment for power systems “often lead to contracts being awarded at the lowest prices – a vulnerability that can be exploited by hackers.”