Author: Chuck Brooks
A few years back, The White House issued a document “Strengthening the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce” that highlights a framework necessary to best recruit, train, and maintain a skilled Federal cybersecurity workforce.
Those elements included:
1) Expanding the Cybersecurity Workforce through Education and Training;
2) Recruiting the Nation’s Best Cyber Talent for Federal Service;
3) Retaining and Develop Highly Skilled Talent; and
4) Identifying Cybersecurity Workforce needs.
The document provided good suggestions to improve the Federal cybersecurity workforce. It is valuable for the private sector who also face challenges of having qualified cybersecurity workers for companies and projects.
As a part of mandate, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) expanded the role and activities of the National Initiative For Cybersecurity Education (NICE). The mission of NICE is to energize and promote a robust network and an ecosystem of cybersecurity education, training, and workforce development. NICE has spearheaded events, conferences and has provide excellent resources that have made a great impact on the workforce ecosystem.
Drawing from the executive initiatives, there are a variety of additional efforts focus on and new ones to consider. To expand the cybersecurity workforce, cultivation and training of a next generation of technicians and SMEs must be a priority. The cyber-threat risk environment is growing exponentially every day and there have not been enough resources dedicated to keeping up with governments cybersecurity requirements.
An investment in developing talent from economically depressed areas is a programmatic solution to consider. An investment in training those in economically depressed areas in an accelerated cybersecurity curriculum — combined with real-world experience through internships and fellowships — would yield high dividends. At the same time. It would bolster the nation’s pipeline for skilled digital workers.
There is a working model in government for this kind of investment: DHS’s Cybersecurity Veterans Hiring Pilot. The pilot was designed to build the department’s cyber workforce and enhance opportunities for veterans to continue to serve our country in cybersecurity. The Veteran’s pilot model (that is now transitioning into a program) can be expanded and enhanced to include outreach economically depressed areas (utilizing HUB Zones) and with Native Americans living on poor economic conditions reservations.
While there is no set program parameters (as this is just a concept), it would not require a costly infrastructure investment to create a Native American cybersecurity and digital analytic pipeline. The components already exist and a program could evolve from an organized public/private partnership mission. Perhaps The Tribal Desk within the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the designated lead for tribal relations and consultation at DHS, could be a starting point for discussions on a potential Native American Cybersecurity pilot project. The model can also be used to train more minorities and women who are under-represented in the current workforce.
Recruiting the nation’s best cyber talent for federal service and retaining and developing highly skilled talent is certainly a noble goal. Building on the White House recommendations, a public/private collaborative effort should be formally established by industry, academia, Congress, and federal and state governments to establish working guidelines cultivate and train the next generation of cybersecurity technicians.
A codified working product of the public/private effort should be to establish incentives for public service such as paid education/free tuition, higher federal worker pay authority, and part–time employee rotational sharing arrangements between industry and government.
For the most highly skilled workers, the federal government should invest in grant and fellowship programs that will support specialized employee training (in addition to their salaries) in cybersecurity research & development DHS, DOD, NASA, the IC, and The National Labs.
Identifying Cybersecurity Workforce needs is an ongoing challenge as the rapid assimilation of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning technology make it difficult for the public sector to keep up tech trends.
The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA) directs DHS along with other agencies to identify cyber-related positions in the federal workforce. OMB (in consultation with DHS) is directed to produce a report identifying the critical workforce cyber needs across all federal agencies.
OMB is on the right track in identifying current gaps. A way of supplementing this effort would be the creation of a government interagency task force that includes DHS, DOD, and the IC to project near term and future cybersecurity requirements. This would provide for a forward looking “future ready” workforce that will be able to forecast and mitigate gaps before they arise.
Both the public and private sectors are facing challenges from a dearth of cybersecurity talent. A report out from Cybersecurity Ventures estimates there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021. Thinking outside of the box such as creating a new workforce initiative and exploring critical gaps is a good step toward better enabling the future federal cybersecurity workforce. New ideas and solutions are continually needed in the important challenge to help us be more cyber-safe.
Chuck Brooks is the Principal Market Growth Strategist — Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies for General Dynamics Mission Systems. LinkedIn named Chuck as one of “The Top 5 Tech People to Follow on LinkedIn” out of their 500 million members. He has published more than 175 articles and blogs on cybersecurity and technology issues. Chuck has served at The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the first Legislative Director of The Science & Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security. He served as a top Advisor to the late Senator Arlen Specter on Capitol Hill covering security and technology issues on Capitol Hill. In academia, Chuck is an Adjunct Faculty member at Georgetown University in their Applied Intelligence Program. He has a MA in International relations from the University of Chicago, a BA in Political Science from DePauw University.