Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says infrastructure is ‘national security issue’

By Jenny LescohierMay 12, 2021

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg highlighted national security as more reasoning behind investment in U.S. infrastructure

Funding U.S. infrastructure needs amounts to a national security issue, according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, pointing to a ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline’s IT system which shutdown the conduit for thousands of miles.

The major U.S. pipeline provides energy to much of the East Coast. 

“The truth is that having excellent, modern infrastructure has always, always been a national security issue,” Buttigieg was quoted by The Hill. “We need to spend and invest for national security reasons on making sure we have the greatest and best technology.”

Part of “what makes America great,” Buttigieg added, is “being a step ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to technology and innovation ... that’s all part of the [American Jobs Plan].”

A breach of Colonial Pipeline’s IT system shut down thousands of miles of pipeline as officials raced to make sure hackers, believed to be operating in Eastern Europe, did not compromise its operational technology.

What is the Colonial Pipeline?

The Colonial Pipeline, based in Alpharetta, GA, is a huge network that supplies eastern states with gasoline, diesel and other products. It was shut down due to a cyberattack that was disclosed late last week. The process of restarting the pipeline was initiated late on May 12, but supplies are expected to take several days to return to normal, the New York Times reported.

Colonial is the largest refined products pipeline network in the country, transporting over 100 million gallons per day.

Colonial Pipeline and infrastructure investment

Tobias Whitney, vice president of energy security solutions at Fortress Information Security, told The Hill the incident should be “eye-opening” for the companies that maintain critical infrastructure in the U.S.

“It’s a wake-up call to the rest of all the critical infrastructure industries to really make sure we are not just giving lip service to these issues, that there are actual detailed, nuanced controls we are implementing to thwart these kinds of events,” Whitney was quoted.

The White House, meanwhile, is trying to convince Republican members in Congress to fund President Biden’s $2.25 trillion spending proposal for infrastructure.

Top Republicans in both chambers have balked at that figure and dismissed the president’s bill as packed with pet projects. They have insisted Democrats and the White House should focus instead on so-called hard infrastructure — funding for public works like the nation’s roads, tunnels and bridges.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled he would be open to a spending package totaling as much as $800 billion.

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