Democrats in both the House and Senate have introduced bills to fund a cybersecurity grant education program at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).

The Cybersecurity Opportunity Act, introduced in the House last week by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and in the Senate this summer by Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., would direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to award at least 50 percent of existing cybersecurity grants to HBCUs for five years for increasing research, education, technical, partnership, and innovation capacity.

“Recent, unprecedented cyberattacks like the SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline breaches demonstrate the urgency of solving the national cybersecurity workforce and funding shortages,” Rep. Johnson said. “And it’s not just enough to throw more money and workers at the problem. We must include more women and minorities, so we are maximizing all the tech talent our country has to offer.”

In a press release, Rep. Johnson said the bill would “help strengthen cybersecurity and contribute to a more diverse workplace by giving the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) authority to make grants to [HBCUs and MSIs] to promote cybersecurity education and research.”

“This legislation will expand America’s cybersecurity workforce to protect our nation from hackers and support diversity and equality of opportunity in the cybersecurity profession by expanding training programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” Sen. Ossoff said.

In the House, the bill has 40 co-sponsors, including Reps. Lucy McBath, D-Ill.; Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.; Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.; Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y.; Karen Bass, D-Calif.; Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas; Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.; Kweisi Mfume, D-Md.; Val Demings, D-Fla.; Ro Khanna, D-Calif.; G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.; and Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y.

“This legislation would also provide the impetus for our cybersecurity workforce to expand and become more diverse while supporting institutions on their path to producing qualified entrants in the cybersecurity workforce and becoming a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity,” Rep. Johnson said. “We’re engaged in a cyber war, and we need all hands-on deck – HBCUs are doing some of the most sophisticated, technologically advanced work in our nation and we need to tap into and fully support those institutions to help us win this cyberwar.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs