Out-of-service gas pumps in Oak Hill, Virginia, due to panic buying after the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack.

In early May the nation felt a most feared crisis. A part of America was being held hostage by enemies of the United States and mercenaries who were seeking over $5 million in order for the United States to be made whole again from an all too critical energy perspective. It has been followed recently by cyberattacks against a large food processing company, a subway system and other smaller public services and businesses. Over the years hundreds of millions of dollars have been paid in cyber ransom incidents.

Gary A. Franks

In the recent major attack on our energy supply, possibly one man was able to do the unthinkable in his pajamas lying on a couch drinking a beer and eating pretzels. Regardless, this individual was able to bring the East Coast of America to its knees. We need oil. We need energy. Forget about eliminating fossil fuels in the year 20XX. We all just need to get through today, the next day, the week, etc.…

As the nation observed the long lines at the gas pumps and the cries at the gas stations that had no fuel to sell, this was a significant incident. For some it was a reminder, a flashback to the 1970s when another Democrat president lived in the White House, President Jimmy Carter. Tie that to the sudden increase in inflation and bombings in the Middle East and the memories became even more vivid and disconcerting.

To have one company control the gas supply of 45% of the East Coast should be a concern for everyone. Colonial Pipeline obviously must beef up their cybersecurity efforts as should all businesses and industries.

I am pleased and thankful that the Biden Administration is no longer having a laissez-faire attitude about cybersecurity with industries. We must have an all-hands-on deck approach. There is the potential in the 21st century for the use of cyberattacks and sanctions much like when nuclear submarines and ballistic missiles were used in the 20th century. Like our past success, America must be far superior to others in the world in defeating cyberattacks.

Hospitals across America are not fazed by power outages caused by storms. They just switch to a back-up generator and operations continue not skipping a beat.

Back in the 1990s when I was the Ranking Member of the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, I used that same argument when it came to the defense security of the United States and the awarding of the next generation submarine. I fought for the production to be performed in my home state of Connecticut. The state of Virginia was insisting that the Seawolf Submarine, part of our stealth military infrastructure, should be made in Virginia along with various other naval vessels. I protested and strongly encouraged the Bush Administration (President George H.W. Bush) that it would endanger America. Our foes would just need to shut down or take out the Virginia shipyard and our capacity to respond to military conflicts would be seriously diminished or at the very least impaired.

The Seawolf Submarine was awarded to a Connecticut manufacturer. For more than two decades advance submarines have been produced in two locations.

As a former Vice Chairman of the House Energy & Power Subcommittee, I believe we must look at the Colonial Pipeline as a wake-up call. If that bad guy that held us hostage weeks ago and got away, trains others or repeats his activities – worse would be if they are state sponsored –  we will dread the day we did not start to place alternatives to our energy infrastructure and delivery capabilities on the top of our list of critical priorities.

Damaging and/or crippling a society in the 21st century can all be done with the speed of a person’s fingers, a thirst for quick money, and a sinister mind.

Gary A. Franks served three terms as U.S. representative for Connecticut’s 5th District. He was the first Black Republican elected to the House in nearly 60 years and New England’s first Black Member of the House.