Monday afternoon, U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson, U.S. Congresswoman Lucy McBath, and U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff, joined the presidents of the institutions that make up the Atlanta University Center inside Morehouse College’s Martin Luther King Jr’s International Chapel to celebrate the passage of bipartisan Cybersecurity Opportunity Act.

The Cybersecurity Opportunity Act will establish the “Dr. David Satcher Cybersecurity Education Grant Program,” which was named after the former U.S. Surgeon General and Morehouse School of Medicine Dean, to expand cybersecurity training programs at HBCUs, tribal institutions, minority-serving institutions and other colleges and universities that serve a high proportion of Pell Grant recipients in Georgia and nationwide – was included in the CHIPS and Science Act. 

The bill requires that 50% of Satcher grant funds must go to HBCUs, tribal, and minority serving institutions to support greater diversity and equality of opportunity in the cybersecurity field.

“The federal government will open this up to a competitive bidding process and the delegation and I will advocate and help Georgia institutions to prepare those bids,” said U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff. “We will do our best to secure these resources for home state institutions. And so I think that it will be in relatively short order, but it’ll depend a little bit on how the executive branch sets that competitive bidding process.”

That competitive bidding process will be jointly student-led and based on the proposals each college or university submits. 

“Now that it’s the law, the federal government will invite applications for these resources. And either individually or as a consortium HBCUs can apply for these resources,” Ossoff explained. “And in so doing, they will define what activities they wish to undertake, consistent with the purposes of the legislation, which are to support cybersecurity job training and public private partnerships to help build a more qualified cybersecurity workforce drawn upon student bodies and institutions like those here that the AUC.”

Congressman Johnson described the growing need for cybersecurity as a multi-disciplinarian challenge because it involves professionals from different industries to solve diverse cybersecurity issues. 

“You need Black folks on your cybersecurity teams and they have to be trained and educated. And this is what this grant program, the David Satcher Cybersecurity Education Grant Program offers,” Johnson said. “That’s what it does. It enables these institutions to train young people like I once was to go forward into this field and make a powerful difference. And so this legislation is very vital to our national interest.”

Joining Senator Ossoff, Congressman Johnson and Congresswoman McBath were Morehouse College President Dr. David A. Thomas, Morehouse School of Medicine President and CEO Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, FACOG; Spelman College President Dr. Helene Gayle, Clark Atlanta President Dr. George T. French Jr., Morris Brown College President Dr. Kevin James and Dr. Charles J. Gibbs, HBCU Consortium Propel Center President. 

Morehouse School of Medicine President and CEO, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, speaks during a press conference on Monday, August 22, 2022 at Morehouse College in Atlanta. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

“It is bipartisan, and it shows a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” explained Montgomery Rice. “And you may be wondering, what is the connection between our stain medical executive, Dr. Satcher and cybersecurity? Well, I can tell you in all the years that I’ve had the privilege of calling Dr. Satcher, a colleague and a friend whether it was in the examination room or the classroom or the boardroom, he’s always been an innovative leader and always on the cutting edge of technology. Therefore, I was not surprised to learn that this grant program was going to be named in his honor.”

Montgomery Rice later said in the face of rising COVID-19 and monkey pox cases, health and cybersafety are intertwined like never before. Healthcare professionals are required to electronically transmit proof of vaccination and test results prior to arriving at certain places and telehealth visits have grown exponentially over the past couple of years. Montgomery Rice believes the intersection of HBCUs training students to guard against identity theft and fraud will protect the healthcare profession going forward.

“This is why we are so excited to be a part of this bipartisan Cybersecurity Opportunity Act,” said Montgomery Rice. “And this creation of the Dr. David Satcher’s cybersecurity education grant program is going to level the playing field and allow those who wish to work with us and to protect us to serve.  I want to always thank Dr. Satcher for his continued leadership.”

The major keys of the greater CHIPS and Science act are it will force the production of more critical semiconductor components in America, helping end the shortage of chips that have driven up the price of everything from cars to consumer goods. It seeks to create 100,000 new jobs and while reducing the dependence on foreign manufacturers by bringing semiconductor manufacturing to America. 

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...