Cantwell To DOE: “We Need To Get A Threat Assessment Done.”

Senator Warns America Must Aggressively Build Cyber Workforce To Defend American Energy Infrastructure

Watch Sen. Cantwell’s opening statement.

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) called for greater action in a hearing to examine private sector and government challenges and opportunities to promote the cybersecurity and resiliency of our nation’s critical energy infrastructure.

“We want the administration to be much more aggressive. We have been pushing for over a year now asking for a [cyber] threat assessment to our electricity grid,” said Senator Cantwell. “We are just dead serious that this is a problem. And we are dead serious that we have to come up with a threat assessment.”

Senator Cantwell also focused on America’s need to invest in our cyber workforce. One energy security association estimates there are currently 10,000 unfilled energy cybersecurity positions at electric utilities, with another 15,000 when the balance of the energy sector and commercial vendors are considered.  That’s 25,000 unfilled positions today, in the energy sector alone, and that number will continue to grow.  

“One of the biggest challenges to the nation’s cyber preparedness is a skilled workforce. By 2020, IBM estimates that there will be 1.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions across all industries,” said Senator Cantwell. “That’s mindboggling – mindboggling – to think about, but not hard to imagine given that we live in an information age and how connected everything is going to be and how every layer will also need security and reinforcement.”

In February 2018, Senator Cantwell introduced legislation that included a requirement that the Department of Energy develop curricula for energy sector-related cybersecurity, and establish a workforce advisory board with a cybersecurity member.  “I have called for a cross-sector, collaborative effort among all elements of our nation’s cyber leadership to meet the workforce gap, much in the same way the University of Washington has demonstrated,” said Senator Cantwell.

“We need to get the threat assessment done, we need to get an understanding of what our workforce need is from that threat assessment, and what other additional focuses besides just hardening of our infrastructure,” said Senator Cantwell.

Senator Cantwell along with other U.S. Senators formally requested an analysis of Russian cyber warfare capabilities with respect to U.S. energy infrastructure in March and June of last year.  The Administration has not responded.  

Read more about Senator Cantwell’s previous actions and statements on cybersecurity here, here and here.