WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday that seeks to protect the U.S. electricity system from cyber and other attacks, the Energy Department said in a release, in a move that could eventually put barriers on some imports from China and Russia.

“It is imperative the bulk-power system be secured against exploitation and attacks by foreign threats,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in the news release. The order will “greatly diminish the ability of foreign adversaries to target our critical electric infrastructure,” he said.

A senior Energy Department official said that the order was not directed at any new threat, but the result of a process to bolster the power system.

The 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment issued by then-U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that China and Russia and other countries were using cyber techniques to spy on U.S. infrastructure.

The power system not only delivers electricity to homes and businesses, but supports the military and emergency systems.

The Energy Department said that government rules about buying equipment for the power grid “often result in contracts being awarded to the lowest-cost bids, a vulnerability that can be exploited by those with malicious intent.”   

The order authorizes Brouillette to work with Trump’s Cabinet and the energy industry on protecting the electricity system.

An Energy Department official said the order determines that the unrestricted foreign supply of electrical power equipment represents an extraordinary threat to U.S. national security. The order prohibits future buying, imports, or transfer of power equipment if the Energy Secretary and other U.S. officials determine that a “transactions to be subject to the influence of a foreign adversary,” the official said.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner, Doina Chiacu and Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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