Feds need help hiring cyber workforce

At least 1,000 jobs could be filled a year, says Vance Hitch

The federal government needs to hire at least 1,000 cybersecurity graduates a year and should be creating and expanding recruiting programs, Vance Hitch, the Justice Department's chief information officer, said today.

The Scholarship for Service Program, currently supplies about 120 new cyber employees to federal agencies annually, but it ought to be enlarged to about 1,000 a year, Hitch said at a news conference on federal cybersecurity workforce needs.

“We need to encourage people to come into the federal government,” Hitch said. “The hiring process is uncomfortable and unfriendly, and someone has to be very focused to want to work for the federal government.”

The event was sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service, which presented a report prepared with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. The report dealt with a lack of strategic federal cyber leadership, an insufficient talent pool, and barriers to recruiting federal cyber workers.

The pipeline of potential new talent is inadequate to meeting the needs, and fragmented and uncoordinated federal leadership hinders success, said Max Stier, president of the partnership. The anticipated appointment of a federal cyber czar is deal with many of the leadership issues; however, the position has not yet been filled.

Cyber threats have been on the rise against federal and private networks, and President Barack Obama has announced several cybersecurity initiatives. Three-quarters of the federal officials surveyed for the report said attracting skilled cyber talent is a high priority for the next two years.

“I could fill five to 10 cybersecurity positions right now, and that is true most of the time,” Hitch said. Although he and the partnership did not estimate the total number of current cyber-related vacancies in federal agencies, Hitch said at least 1,000 cyber graduates could be absorbed annually governmentwide.

The intelligence community alone has more than 1,000 open cybersecurity positions, said Ron Sanders, chief human capital officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Currently, due to the economic downturn, recruitment is going better than usual, he said. “We are competing very well right now,” Sanders said after the news conference. The intelligence community also has separate rules that reduce some of the barriers to hiring. “Frankly, it is an advantage not to be covered by regular civil service requirements,” he said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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