Cantwell Statement On Russian Intrusion Campaign Against U.S.

Senator Warns America Must Aggressively Defend American Energy Infrastructure

March 15, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) released the following statement regarding the Trump administration announcement of new sanctions on Russia for attacks on U.S. energy infrastructure:

“A year ago yesterday, I called for a Russian cyber threat assessment to our grid.  I’ve repeatedly asked President Trump to tackle this urgent task and have been met with deafening silence. I hope today’s belated response is the first step in a robust and aggressive strategy to protect our critical infrastructure," said Senator Cantwell.

At a hearing on March 1, 2018, Senator Cantwell called for urgent action to defend American energy infrastructure against potential attacks from Russia or other foreign actors. “We want the administration to be much more aggressive. We have been pushing for over a year now asking for a 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.”

A year ago on March 14, 2017, Senator Cantwell and Senator Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote President Trump demanding urgent action to defend American energy infrastructure against potential attacks from Russian or other foreign actors. “It is imperative that we are doing everything we can to harden and protect our infrastructure from very real and imminent threats,” the Senators wrote.

The June 22, 2017, letter Senator Cantwell and Senate Colleagues sent to President Trump urged the Department of Energy to conduct an analysis of Russian capabilities with respect to cyber attacks on U.S. energy infrastructure. The letter noted that “[w]e are deeply concerned that your administration has not backed up a verbal commitment prioritizing cybersecurity of energy networks and fighting cyber aggression with any meaningful action” and requested that President Trump, “direct the Department of Energy, in consultation with other relevant agencies, to within 60 days conduct a thorough analysis of:

a) the scope of Russian capabilities to use cyber warfare to threaten our energy infrastructure; and

b) the extent to which the Russians have already attempted cyber intrusions into our electric grid, pipelines, and other important energy facilities.”

Following cyber attacks targeting U.S. nuclear facilities, Senator Cantwell released the following statement. “Today I am reiterating my call for President Trump to immediately perform the long overdue assessment of cyber vulnerabilities that 19 Senators have requested, and abandon his proposed cuts to the Department of Energy’s Office tasked with protecting our energy networks from cyber attacks,” said Senator Cantwell.

On July 18, 2017, Senator Cantwell announced a letter cosigned by Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) to the Government Accountability Office requesting an assessment of current cyber and physical security protections for U.S. natural gas, oil, and other hazardous liquid pipelines and associated infrastructure.

In the letter, the lawmakers wrote, “An assessment of these guidelines and their effectiveness is needed as a number of major trends have emerged, with potentially significant implications for our energy, national and economic security. These include both the increasing interdependence of U.S. electric and natural gas infrastructure, and the evolving nature of cyber threats from both criminal and foreign state actors.”

Senator Cantwell delivered opening remarks on November 17, 2017, at a symposium with leading experts regarding the needed urgency in addressing cybersecurity preparedness in the energy sector and to learn about higher education’s efforts in preparing the workforce to address the cybersecurity talent deficit.

“Cybersecurity is an issue that keeps me up at night; the grid, its critical infrastructure, and the fact that it is under attack from the Russians and other foreign actors,” said Senator Cantwell. “If we do not make the necessary investments against these cyber attacks, our enemies could succeed in causing a blackout that harm our economy.”

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