Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) and Congressman Mike Carey (OH-15) introduced the Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program Act to address a rise in cybersecurity threats against energy infrastructure in the United States. Recent incidents, like the ransomware attack on the Colonial Gas Pipeline, an attempted water poisoning at a Florida treatment plant, or last year’s attempted cyberattack on the Port of Houston, are just a few examples of the threats that inspired this bipartisan legislation, which will both bolster the energy sector’s growing workforce and strengthen the United States’ ability to address future cyberattacks. Specifically, the bill will create an Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program, which will provide grants and financial assistance to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers studying cybersecurity and energy infrastructure.

“To confront growing cyber threats against our country’s critical energy infrastructure, we must make real investments in a strong and diverse workforce ready to meet any challenge,” said Congresswoman Ross. “I’m proud to represent much of the Research Triangle, home to institutions and universities that are propelling our nation’s innovation in cybersecurity and clean energy. From NC State to Shaw, Saint Augustine’s and Wake Tech, this legislation will better equip our brilliant students and researchers in North Carolina and beyond to tackle this changing cybersecurity landscape. It is imperative that we work together to address threats against the United States’ security across sectors, and I’m pleased to introduce this bipartisan legislation with Congressman Carey.”

“Cyber threats on America’s energy sector have never been greater and must be met with urgent action to protect the critical infrastructure that makes modern life possible,” said Congressman Carey. “Establishing the Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program will strengthen our resilience by further developing a high-skilled workforce with energy-specific cybersecurity expertise. America must be unified in our response to foreign adversaries seeking to attack our energy networks, which is why I am proud to introduce this bi-partisan legislation with Representative Deborah Ross and look forward working together toward its passage.”

Many cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the energy sector are only discovered once they have already been exploited in attempted or successful attacks. Compounding the issue, the United States’ energy infrastructure is growing more susceptible to advanced methods of cyberattack as the energy sector integrates more complex technologies. A robust energy security workforce will help the energy sector better prepare for, respond to, and combat this growing threat environment.

The Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program addresses these workforce and research needs by creating a grant program at the Department of Energy that:

  • Provides financial assistance for scholarships, fellowships, and R&D projects at colleges and universities to support graduate students studying the convergence of cybersecurity and energy infrastructure
  • Provides students and postdoctoral researchers with traineeship research experiences at the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories and utilities
  • Expands outreach to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities

Additionally, the bill requires that the Secretary of Energy submit a report to Congress on the development and implementation of the program no later than one year after bill enactment.

As a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Congresswoman Ross has been champion of legislation to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity. In October 2021, she introduced legislation with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to address ransomware threats. Following the cyber-attack on the Colonial Pipeline last year, Congresswoman Ross led her North Carolina colleagues in calling on House leadership to conduct a full investigation and prioritize policies that would prevent similar attacks.