The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) has launched the Operational Technology (OT) Defender Fellowship, which is intended to help strengthen critical infrastructure cybersecurity.

The OT Defender Fellowship program, a collaboration with DoE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center for Cyber and Technology Innovation, will help deepen the cybersecurity knowledge of U.S. front-line critical infrastructure defenders.

“Operational technology security managers keep the core physical systems of our energy infrastructure running smoothly in the face of natural disasters, physical sabotage, and nation-state cyberattacks,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “In support of the President’s Cybersecurity Workforce Executive Order, the Department of Energy is proud to support this elite training program to create opportunities to grow America’s cyber workforce.”

The year-long fellowship is for operational technology security managers throughout the energy sector and will have them engage with cyber and national security experts across the U.S. government. DoE said that participants will “gain a greater understanding of the strategies and tactics” of U.S. adversaries and how U.S. government cyber operators defend the nation.

“As a world leader in securing operational technology and industrial control systems from cyber threats, INL is looking forward to sharing our knowledge and experiences with the private sector through this important fellowship,” said Zach Tudor, INL associate laboratory director for National and Homeland Security programs. “This fellowship expands on many of the lab’s successful research and development programs, our at-scale testing capabilities, and our comprehensive training and workforce development initiatives.”

In a press release, DoE noted that the Fellowship program aligns with the bipartisan recommendations of the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

“Securing our energy infrastructure is not an abstract policy idea, it is an immediate need to protect our nation from the real threat of malign actors,” said Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, Cyberspace Solarium Commission co-chair. “The Cyberspace Solarium Commission report advocates for operationalizing cybersecurity collaboration with the private sector and reshaping how the U.S. government coordinates with the private sector; these steps are central to our collective defense. There is no question that this new DoE initiative will better protect our country from cyberattacks.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.