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Energy Department cyber office will combat Russian threats, Rick Perry promises lawmakers

March 20, 2018

In the face of Russian cyberattacks, Energy Secretary Rick Perry vowedTuesdaythat his department’s new cyber office will be fully capable of dealing with those threats and stopping any potential assaults on the U.S. electric grid.

Speaking to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Mr. Perry said the new division formally known as the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response, or CESER would cement the Energy Department’s role as the lead agency in responding to any attack on the power grid or other parts of the nation’s energy infrastructure.

The secretary first announced the new office in February, but he elaborated on his planTuesdaymorning in the face of criticism from Democrats who argue the Trump administration isn’t doing enough to deal with cyberattacks, whether they be foreign or domestic.

“There is a clear role that DOE plays on cyber,” Mr. Perry said. “We are committed to being as technically advanced as possible. It’s the reason we request the funding and the reason we have structured the department as such to clearly send a message that this is important and that we’re going to fund it as such.”

The administration is seeking nearly $100 million for the cyber office in its fiscal year 2019 budget.

While Democrats applauded the idea of a Energy Department office specifically designed to deal with cyberattacks, they contend Mr. Perry and the administration as a whole should’ve done more sooner.

“If the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s recent admission isn’t a siren, I don’t know what is,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrat and her party’s ranking member on the panel, referring to the recent conclusion from the federal government that Russian actors had indeed targeted U.S. energy infrastructure with cyber warfare.

I hope the belated response is the first step in turning that around to be a robust response to protect our infrastructure,” she continued. “We do want to defend against what could be widespread blackouts and devastation to our economy and the other harmful security risks.”

While senators of both parties urged Mr. Perry to work closely with the FBI, Homeland Security, and other agencies responsible for responding to cyberattacks, Mr. Perry said his department can and will take the lead.

“The Department of Energy we are the sector-specific agency that partners with the energy sector to ensure infrastructure security and resilience, and coordinate response and recovery,” he said.