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On June 22, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) kicked off its Service Academy Collaboration (SAC) Program as it virtually welcomed six cadets from the United States Coast Guard Academy to collaborate on its ongoing research and development efforts in energy sector supply chain security. The five-week internship will provide the students a world-class research experience as they work alongside leaders in cybersecurity at Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

"We are honored to welcome the inaugural class of U.S. Coast Guard Academy interns to INL this summer, expanding our collaborations with private industry, academia, and the U.S. military to secure the nation’s critical energy infrastructure,” said Zach Tudor, INL's Associate Laboratory Director for National and Homeland Security.

The SAC Program will provide service academy students and faculty cutting-edge opportunities to further their knowledge in cybersecurity disciplines of mutual interest to the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and DOE, including engineering cyber systems, operations research, and computer analysis. Though the inaugural participants will work with INL staff virtually due to the ongoing pandemic, future participants will be placed at one of the Department’s premier research and development institutions, production facilities, or technology test sites across the nation for the five-to-ten week research experience.

“With these six cadets, CESER initiates a new phase of our long relationship with the nation’s service academies to provide hands-on cybersecurity research opportunities for tomorrow’s servicewomen and servicemen,“ said Sean Plankey, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for CESER and service academy alumnus, “as the country faces a growing shortfall of cybersecurity experts – and notably, those with experience securing industrial control systems – we hope to provide students accelerated growth in specific cyber skillsets critical to the security of our nation.”

DOE has a keen interest in increasing the number of early-career professionals with cybersecurity experience. The United States grapples with an unmet demand for cyber professionals, and, as stated in the president’s May 2019 Executive Order on America’s Cybersecurity Workforce, a superior cyber workforce is “a strategic asset that protects the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life.” This is especially true in the energy sector, where adversarial nation-states look to breach control systems with the intent to leverage the ability to hold our nation at risk for strategic geopolitical gain. Through the SAC Program, CESER and its partners in the armed services are preparing future officers to understand and combat these threats.

In 2021, CESER plans to expand the program to include other service academies.