Amid President Joe Biden’s wholesale efforts to use executive authority to wipe away the impacts of former President Donald Trump came one swipe of the pen that impacts China’s ability to gain a foothold in America’s power grid.
A Biden executive order issued on the day he took the oath of office included, without comment, a change to an order Trump signed in May, according to the White House.
“Executive Order 13920 of May 1, 2020 (Securing the United States Bulk-Power System), is hereby suspended for 90 days. The Secretary of Energy and the Director of OMB shall jointly consider whether to recommend that a replacement order be issued,” Biden’s order stated.
On the face of it, that does not sound like much.
But the archived White House website from the Trump administration reveals the importance of the order, in which Trump declared “a national emergency with respect to the threat to the United States bulk-power system.”
Two days in & Biden says never mind about stopping COVID & hands the electrical grid to China. “Biden Rescinds Trump Order Banning Chinese Communist Involvement In US Power Grid” https://t.co/sT9G8DUHkQ HT @SecretsBedard
— Tammy Bruce (@HeyTammyBruce) January 22, 2021
In that order, Trump made the stakes clear:
“[F]oreign adversaries are increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in the United States bulk-power system, which provides the electricity that supports our national defense, vital emergency services, critical infrastructure, economy, and 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, 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,” Trump said in explaining why he wanted to keep foreign equipment out of the nation’s power grid.
“[U]nrestricted acquisition or use in the United States of bulk-power system electric equipment designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of foreign adversaries augments the ability of foreign adversaries to create and exploit vulnerabilities in bulk-power system electric equipment, with potentially catastrophic effects,” Trump wrote.
“I therefore determine that the unrestricted foreign supply of bulk-power system electric equipment constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Trump wrote.
The order banned “bulk-power system electric equipment designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied, by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of a foreign adversary” where purchasing such equipment “poses an undue risk of sabotage to or subversion of the design, integrity, manufacturing, production, distribution, installation, operation, or maintenance of the bulk-power system in the United States.”
Although the order never mentioned any nation by name as a national security threat, the National Law Review said the target was clear.
“[B]ecause Chinese companies are key suppliers of equipment to the US power sector, and the Trump administration has consistently targeted China as a trade adversary and threat to US national security, many observers believe the EO intends primarily to curtail Chinese access to, and Chinese industrial equipment sales serving, the US bulk power system,” the piece stated.
The authority contained in Trump’s executive order was used in December by then-Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette in an order he issued specifically targeting China, according to a release on the Department of Energy website.
The order prohibits utilities that supply critical defense facilities from buying equipment from China “that poses an undue risk to the [bulk-power system], the security or resilience of critical infrastructure, the economy, national security, or safety and security of Americans,” the release said. The order took effect Jan. 16.
“The bulk-power system is the backbone of our Nation’s energy infrastructure and is fundamental to our national security, the American economy, and our way of life,” Brouillette said in the release.
“It is imperative we secure the BPS against attacks and exploitation by foreign adversaries. This order is one of several steps this Administration is taking to greatly diminish the ability of our foreign adversaries to target our critical electric infrastructure,” he said.
Biden allowing the CCP into our power grid is the real impeachable offense.
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) January 22, 2021
With the executive order Brouillette based his order on being paused for 90 days, and the Trump administration having left office, it is unclear what will happen to the order banning Chinese equipment from being used by utilities that supply power to America’s military installations.