Initiative Strengthens Cybersecurity of Energy Sector Through Public-Private Partnerships

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is now accepting applications for the next class of its Operational Technology (OT) Defender Fellowship aimed at expanding the cybersecurity knowledge and capabilities of U.S. energy sector cyber defenders. The fellowship is a unique, tailored, and highly selective education program for middle- and senior-level OT cybersecurity and operations managers from U.S. electricity, oil, and natural gas companies.  

“Through OT Defender, DOE is arming senior cybersecurity leaders with ways to counter the strategies and tactics that cyber criminals and nation state actors use in targeting U.S. energy infrastructure,” said Puesh Kumar, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). “The cybersecurity of critical infrastructure in the United States continues to be a priority for this Administration. DOE, as the sector risk management agency for the U.S. energy sector, will continue to build upon these efforts in close partnership with electricity, oil, and natural gas owners and operators.”  

CESER launched the OT Defender Fellowship last year in collaboration with DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD) Center for Cyber and Technology Innovation (CCTI). The OT Defender Fellowship offers one cohort per year with up to 10 participants per cohort. Through the program, OT security managers from across the energy sector build relationships with their peers and with cyber experts in U.S. government departments and agencies to gain greater understanding of the OT threat landscape and strengthen their capabilities to defend critical energy infrastructure.

“Working with critical infrastructure operators to enhance national cyber resilience must be a top priority of the U.S. government,” said U.S. Sen. Angus King, co-chair of the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC). “The OT Defender Fellowship is exactly the kind of public-private collaboration the Commission has been advocating for. I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak with this group and hear from them about how we can work together to protect the systems all Americans rely upon.”

The 2021 cohort includes participants from forward-thinking organizations across the energy sector including renewable energy, electricity, and oil and natural gas.

“Enhancing our nation’s critical systems to make them more robust and resilient from cyber threats requires strong partnerships and a collaborative approach to information sharing,” said Zach Tudor, INL’s associate laboratory director for National and Homeland Security programs. “The OT Defender Fellowship Program was designed to help industry understand, assess and solve cyber challenges through increased communication and improved transparency with the federal government. We are pleased to offer this program once again.”

“A robust national cyber defense requires dynamic public-private partnerships to ensure government and the private sector are working together,” said CSC Commissioner Tom Fanning, Chairman, President & CEO of Southern Company. “Southern Company was pleased to be a participant in the first cohort of the OT Defender Fellowship, and our team has built stronger relationships with our industry peers and government partners as a result.”

“The United States cannot patch its way to safety and security in cyberspace,” said CSC Commissioner Samantha Ravich, chair of FDD’s CCTI. “As the Commission concluded last year, we need a strategic approach that understands and counters the adversary’s strategy, and the foundation of an effective cyber strategy rests on collaboration with the private sector. The OT Defender Fellowship operationalizes this collaboration and builds on DOE’s reputation as a trusted cybersecurity partner.

DOE CESER is leading the charge on the needs and concerns of critical energy infrastructure operators. FDD’s Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation is pleased to partner with Idaho National Lab to support this important program.”

For more information and to apply for the OT Defender Fellowship, visit