Today, the House of Representatives passed the Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Act, legislation introduced by Congresswoman Deborah Ross (NC-02) and Congressman Mike Carey (OH-15) that will address the rise in cybersecurity threats against energy infrastructure in the United States. Cyberattacks on energy infrastructure, like the ransomware attack on the Colonial Gas Pipeline, surged to a record high in 2022 and are expected to increase due to shortages in the cybersecurity workforce in North Carolina and beyond. This bipartisan bill will both bolster the energy sector’s growing workforce and strengthen the United States’ ability to address future cyberattacks.

 Specifically, the bill will direct the Secretary of Energy to provide financial assistance to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers studying cybersecurity and energy infrastructure. Congresswoman Ross spoke in support of the legislation on the House floor.

“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 that are leading our nation’s innovation in cybersecurity and clean energy. From NC State to Shaw and Saint Augustine’s, this legislation will better equip our students and researchers in North Carolina and beyond to tackle the evolving cybersecurity threat environment. I thank Congressman Carey for working with me this issue and urge my Senate colleagues to join us in passing this important legislation.”

"Continued cybersecurity threats against our energy infrastructure have led to important, bipartisan legislation in the form of the Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Act, which will empower our students and researchers to further study the convergence of cybersecurity and the energy sector," said Congressman Carey. "Central Ohio, a hub for higher education and technological advancements, will benefit greatly from this investment, as will researchers across the country. Thank you to Congresswoman Deborah Ross for her leadership on this legislation." 

“Cybersecurity is a national security issue. Bills such as the Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Act, sponsored by Representatives Ross and Carey, provide the leadership needed to combat this existential threat to the sustainability of our organizations and quality of life,” said Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail, President of Saint Augustine’s University. “Saint Augustine’s University is advancing its STEM initiatives through our partnership with International Informational System Security Certification Consortium, Inc. (ISC)2, the world’s leading information security certification consortium. This partnership positions our students to meet the diversity, equity, and inclusion needs of a growing cybersecurity workforce. I am excited about the creative and collaborative spirit of our public and private partners to engage us in addressing the rapidly-changing cybersecurity world.”

"Technology has become an integral part of modern society," said Dr. James Brown, Director of the Center for Cybersecurity Education and Research at Shaw University. "With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our reliance on technology has grown dramatically. However, the pervasiveness of technology has increased the need for cybersecurity to protect our sensitive and personal information. Unfortunately, there is a significant lack of skilled professionals to address that need, with some 700,000 open cybersecurity positions nationwide. To protect our digital lives and ensure national security, more attention and investment must be paid toward cybersecurity. Shaw University has responded by creating a new computer science concentration in cyber operations to address this."

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 directing the Secretary of Energy to:

  • Provide 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
  • Provide students and postdoctoral researchers with traineeship research experience at the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories and utilities
  • Expand 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 activities described above 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.