Today, Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) and Congressman Mike Carey (OH-15) introduced the Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Act to address the rise in cybersecurity threats and attacks against energy infrastructure in the United States. Recent incidents, including the substation attack in Moore County, North Carolina, the ransomware attack on the Colonial Gas Pipeline, and an attempted water poisoning at a Florida treatment plant, are just a few examples of the threats that inspired this bipartisan legislation.

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. This legislation will both bolster the energy sector’s growing workforce and strengthen the United States’ ability to address future cyberattacks.

“To confront growing cyber threats and attacks 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 like NC State and Wake Tech that are leading our nation’s innovation in cybersecurity and clean energy. This legislation will better equip our students and researchers in North Carolina and beyond to tackle growing cyber threats. I am grateful for Congressman Carey’s partnership on this issue and look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Continued cybersecurity threats on America have led to the need for bipartisan and common-sense legislation that will protect our energy grid,” said Congressman Carey. “The Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program will allow for PHD and graduate students to dedicate their time to researching ways to bolster our national security and avoid large scale power outages and attacks on our critical infrastructure. I am proud to re-introduce this legislation with Congresswoman Deborah Ross and hope to see it passed in the 118th Congress.”

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 cybersecurity workforce will help the energy sector better prepare for, respond to, and combat this growing threat environment.

The Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Act 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 experience 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.

Representatives Ross and Carey previously introduced the legislation during the 117th Congress, and it passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. Bill text is available here.