Bipartisan bill would create grant program for energy sector cyber research

A bipartisan House duo on Thursday introduced legislation intended to bolster the energy sector’s ability to combat future cyberattacks and other digital threats.

The Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program Act from Reps. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) and Mike Carey (R-Ohio) would create a grant program within the Energy Department to provide financial aid to graduate students and post-doctoral researchers studying cybersecurity and energy infrastructure.

The measure would also allow researchers to study at DOE’s national labs and boost outreach to historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions.

The bill requires the Energy secretary to submit a report to lawmakers on the development and implementation of the effort no later than one year after it is signed into law.

The legislation comes as federal officials stay on high alert that Russian hackers could launch a digital assault on critical infrastructure around the world, particularly as Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine enters a new phase. The energy sector has received additional attention from the Biden administration following last year’s ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline.

On Wednesday, federal agencies and international partners issued a joint advisory that provided a roster of hackers and criminal groups aligned with Moscow who could target critical infrastructure operators.

“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,” Ross said in a statement, adding that the proposed bill would “better equip our brilliant students and researchers” to address online threats.

Carey, who along with Ross serves on the House Science Committee, said establishing the program would “strengthen our resilience by further developing a high-skilled workforce with energy-specific cybersecurity expertise.”

Martin Matishak

Martin is a senior cybersecurity reporter for The Record. He spent the last five years at Politico, where he covered Congress, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community and was a driving force behind the publication's cybersecurity newsletter.

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