Security Strategy, Plan, Budget

Lack of cyber talent threatens national security


A serious shortage in people to fill federal cybersecurity posts threatens national security.

The problem is compounded by a lack of leadership, planning and coordination within the federal government, according to the report, “Cyber IN-security: Strengthening the federal cybersecurity workforce,” from the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Other findings of the study focused on challenges that threaten the quality and quantity of the federal cybersecurity workforce. One issue was that the pipeline of potential new talent is inadequate. The report calls on the White House to take the lead on developing a strategy to acquire, train and retain cybersecurity talent.

One specific recommendation from the report was that new job classifications for cybersecurity should be developed. Because the government is operating with an outdated and often vague job classification scheme for information security, managers often face difficulties finding people with the right skills, according to the report.

“Agencies should consider the profession of cybersecurity in its own context,” Jeff Akin, principal at Booz Allen Hamilton, told Wednesday. ”When that happens, and the notion of a cybersecurity professional is brought into the framework for how cyber resources are deployed, it should help. It will let managers get a better match of candidates to what the actual job responsibilities are.”

Only 40 percent total of CIOs, CISOs and IT hiring managers are generally satisfied with the quality of applicants applying for federal cybersecurity jobs, and only 30 percent total are fully satisfied with the number of qualified candidates who are applying, according to the report.

Another issue was a seeming disconnect between hiring managers and government HR specialists.

“Our surveys reveal that front-line managers are consistently less satisfied with the effort to hire new cybersecurity talent than their peers in HR,” said the authors of the report. “In addition, 41 percent of the CIOs/CISOs and 38 percent of HR managers reported being either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied at the level of collaboration with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which should provide vital support for agencies looking to acquire skilled cybersecurity workers.”

The report recommended creating a dedicated, high-level team within OPM to identify and remove barriers to hiring top cybersecurity talent. It also recommended that Congress expand and fund programs that train graduate and undergraduate students in cybersecurity.

The report was based on a survey of federal CIOs, CISOs and HR officials, and focus groups at 18 federal agencies, along with examination of public testimony, reports and documents.

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