Forget CRT. America Needs Critical Infrastructure Training  

Critical race theory may be the most controversial idea in circulation today. A Rorschach test for the American people, many view it as little more than an expensive racket to excoriate white people.

Whatever your thoughts, it’s certainly divisive.The country is now more divided than at any point in recent history; further division is the last thing America needs. Unity is what is required. Not some sort of Marianne Williamson-inspired, flowers in our hair unity, but a commonsense sort.  

Whether our country can recover political unity will depend on the United States remaining a safe, functioning, sovereign nation. That seems like a goal worth rallying around. Is there an education program that would advance this objective—something that would be a better alternative to critical race theory? 

Yes, and it comes in the form of CIT, or critical infrastructure training.

The United States has 16 key critical infrastructure sectors, each one providing a vital service to the country. These include the chemical sector, the communications sector, IT and transportation, to name just four. As the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warns, the “incapacitation or destruction” of these sectors “would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.” 

Distressingly, the “incapacitation” or “destruction” of at least one of these key pillars looks increasingly likely.

Every 39 seconds, somewhere on the planet, a cyberattack occurs. The United States is now the most targeted country in the world. Last year alone, the United States was the victim of 65,000 ransomware attacks; that’s more than one every eight minutes. 

According to a report by CISO Mag, a leading cybersecurity news publication, “75% of the U.S. states and territories’ overall cyberhealth are rated a ‘C’ or below; 35% have a ‘D’ and below.” Former FBI Director Christopher Wray recently spoke about the existential threat facing the United States. “Cyber weapons of mass destruction” capable of wreaking unimaginable levels of havoc on the country, already exist. The cyber equivalent of 9/11, he warns, is very likely.

Now, imagine multiple 9/11s occurring simultaneously across the land. As horrific and farfetched, as this sounds, it’s possible. 

Hackers now possess the tools to completely hijack a city’s electrical grid. Imagine a city as big as New York—already a rather unruly place—plunged into complete darkness. A cyberattack on the electrical grid would ensure utter chaos and bloody mayhem. Scenes from “The Purge occurring in real life, quite possibly in multiple cities simultaneously, are very real possibilities. 

Just a few months ago, in Oldsmar, Florida, a hacker attempted to increase the levels of sodium hydroxide in the city’s water supply. In small amounts, sodium hydroxide keeps water sanitized and safe. In large quantities, however, it tends to be lethal. This is just one example of the threats facing the country. Thankfully, the crisis was averted. The next time, though—and there will be a next time—things might not end so well. 

Taking Action Before It’s Too Late

In our water treatment facilities alone, the country currently faces at least 50,000 different cybersecurity threats. The cyber equivalent of Judgement Day is fast approaching, and the United States is ill-prepared. As military journalist Rachel S. Cohen noted in April, the country “currently faces an annual shortfall of around 13,700 information security analysts, with nearly 320,000 other openings for candidates with cybersecurity skills.” The dearth of talent is a threat to national security. 

What can be done?

“Out of adversity comes opportunity,” the adage goes. The cyber threats facing the United States pose great challenges, but they also present the country with a unique opportunity. With proper critical infrastructure training, students could learn how to detect bad actors, how to counter them, how to deal with acts of cyber extortion, and how to mitigate risks—along with a variety of practical skills in computer coding, engineering, etc. This would have the added benefit of providing useful and remunerative alternatives to the hopelessly corrupt liberal arts programs in our universities.

As cyber threats evolve, the education system must keep pace. When cyberattackers target water supplies or electrical grids, they are targeting all Americans, regardless of skin color or political inclinations. There is no Republican water supply, no electrical grid for BLM members. (Many, I’m sure, wish there were.) 

Although race and racism are vital topics, they need not be the focal point of every single discussion. The country faces existential threats that must be identified, addressed, and met with a highly educated response.

Every single American stands to benefit from increased levels of cybersecurity. However, for this to actually materialize, people must be trained, and the training starts in schools. None of us can survive without critical infrastructure. This is not some misguided theory; it’s a fact. In this age of extreme polarization, can we please agree on this?


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About John Mac Ghlionn

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist whose work has appeared in the South China Morning Post, Global Policy, the New York Post, The American Conservative, and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Photo: Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images