Workforce

Senate panel approves DHS cyber hiring measure

US Capitol

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill by voice vote May 21 intended to give the Department of Homeland Security more flexibility in hiring cybersecurity specialists.

The measure, sponsored by Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), would authorize DHS to pay cyber experts more and retain them with bonuses, tools Carper said are already used by the National Security Agency and the Defense Department.

Carper said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and others in the department had provided input on the bill.

“Today, we all know that our country faces a shortage of cybersecurity professionals. We also face unrelenting attacks on a 24/7 basis from folks who are trying to steal our personally identified information, our trade secrets, weapons secrets, you name it,” Carper said during the committee’s consideration of the legislation.

The bill will not head to the Senate floor until lawmakers agree on a funding offset, but ranking Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, one of the Senate’s toughest budget hawks, indicated that is unlikely to be a significant roadblock.

Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu expressed concern that at least part of the additional cost for bulking up the cyber workforce is a result of competition between agencies for scarce expertise.

There is “an arms race going on between federal agencies to hire a limited pool of skilled workers. And so the agencies bid against each other and it just raises the cost to the taxpayer,” she lamented, suggesting Congress look outside Washington for solutions.

Coburn agreed with Landrieu on principle but not on methods. Congress needs to help “fix cyber now. We need these people now,” he said.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is the Pentagon correspondent for FCW, where he covers cybersecurity, defense IT and intelligence issues. Prior to that, he was a reporter and editor for Smart Grid Today, the utility industry's journal of record. He has reported for The Atlantic, The Economist and The Washington Diplomat, among other outlets. He is former chair of the Young Members Committee at the National Press Club. Sean earned his B.A. from Duke University and his M.A. from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University.


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