Kamala Harris Describes Colonial Pipeline Hack As 'Warning Shot' in Speech To Navy Graduates

Vice President Kamala Harris discussed cyberattacks during her speech to graduates at the U.S. Naval Academy Friday.

Harris described the ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline as a "warning shot" for what the Navy and Marine Corps officers will face, the Associated Press reported.

"In fact, there have been many warning shots, so we must defend our nation against these threats, and at the same time we must make advances in things that you've been learning — things like quantum computing and artificial intelligence and robotics and things that will put our nation at a strategic advantage," Harris said

Harris, the first woman to give the keynote address at the academy's commissioning ceremony, also discussed how climate change and the coronavirus pandemic have ushered in a new era of threats.

"This, midshipmen, is the era we are in, and it is unlike any era that came before," Harris said. "So, the challenge now, the challenge before us now is how to mount a modern defense to these modern threats."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Kamala Harris Naval Academy
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks at the U.S. Naval Academy Graduation and Commissioning Ceremony at the Naval Academy on May 28, 2021 in Annapolis, Maryland. The graduating class of 1,084 will be commissioned as ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps. She discussed how climate change, cyberattacks and the pandemic have ushered in a new era of threats the graduates will face. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Harris, the nation's first female vice president and the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to hold the office, said the pandemic "has accelerated our world into a new era."

"It has forever impacted our world," she said. "It has forever influenced our perspective, and if we weren't clear before, we know now: Our world is interconnected. Our world is interdependent, and our world is fragile."

A pandemic can spread throughout the world in a matter of months, a gang of hackers can disrupt the fuel supply, and one country's carbon emissions can threaten the sustainability of the Earth, the vice president said.

In her speech to more than 1,000 graduates, including ones who majored in mechanical, electrical and ocean engineering, Harris described climate change as "a very real threat to our national security."

"I look at you, and I know you are among the experts who will navigate and mitigate the threat," Harris said.

Most of the 1,084 graduates were commissioned as officers in the Navy and Marine Corps, including 784 Navy ensigns and 274 Marines as 2nd lieutenants. About 28 percent of the graduating class are women.

Harris said "the American people are depending on you."

"We saw this during COVID-19 when Americans watched how members of our military helped vaccinate our nation, because you know biological threats like pandemics and infectious diseases are yet another threat in this era," Harris said.

The commissioning ceremony was held in person again at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, a year after the academy held its first-ever virtual graduation and commissioning ceremony because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Harris' milestone speech came in the same year that the academy had its first Black female brigade commander, who represents about 4,400 midshipmen.

Midshipman Sydney Barber, who was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Marines at the ceremony, said it was an exciting and emotional day to graduate with Harris as the speaker. She said she was scheduled to meet with the vice president after the ceremony.

"I plan to thank her for paving the way," Barber, of Lake Forest, Ill., said in an interview before the ceremony. "She definitely paved the way for me, inspired me throughout the journey."

Naval Academy Graduate
Graduating U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen raise their right hands as they are commissioned at the graduation and commission ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Friday, May 28, 2021. During her keynote speech, Vice President Kamala Harris Harris, the first woman to give the keynote address at the academy’s commissioning ceremony, discussed how cyberattacks, climate change and the coronavirus pandemic have ushered in a new era of threats the graduates will face. Julio Cortez/AP Photo