Federal CIO: Hire faster, from every discipline

Tony Scott  (Photo: VMware)

Federal CIO Tony Scott said, "Cyber is a global problem, and we need people who speak every language on the planet."

The government needs to hire skilled cybersecurity professionals fast, starting with the federal chief information security officer, according to Federal CIO Tony Scott.

Speaking at an April 12 event sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor's Passcode security blog, Scott said the White House was down to a handful of candidates and would likely announce the new federal CISO within 30 days.

"It's about time we had one," he said, adding that he's excited to have a CISO join him.

But the federal government needs technology talent across agencies, not just at the highest levels, he added.

"There's no area combined with cybersecurity that I would say we're full up on," Scott said, adding that agencies need to broaden their reach. They should consider hiring people from a variety of disciplines -- such as cultural anthropology, economics, biology and foreign languages -- who also have cybersecurity knowledge.

"Cyber is a global problem, and we need people who speak every language on the planet," he said.

The government also shouldn't limit its applicant pool to college graduates.

Scott said requirements that job applicants have four-year degrees might not always be appropriate, and his office is working with the Office of Personnel Management to develop new approaches, including offering cybersecurity scholarships, hiring veterans and nontraditional applicants, and speeding up the famously sluggish federal hiring process.

"It's not competitive," said Rodney Petersen, head of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, of the hiring process.

The IRS has claimed that the long hiring cycle hurt its recruitment efforts even more than low pay, and Scott agreed.

He recalled working at Microsoft when company executives started offering flashier perks because they were losing good job applicants to other tech companies. When he dug into the problem, Scott found that applicants weren't eschewing Microsoft because it lacked flash; they said, "The other guys got me a job offer quicker."

Once Microsoft streamlined its hiring process, it regained a competitive edge, and Scott said that is what the government needs to do.

His comments came two months after the passage of a law that seeks to streamline federal hiring. Scott said his work with OPM will address that issue, and changes will be announced in the coming months.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a former FCW staff writer.


  • Defense
    Ryan D. McCarthy being sworn in as Army Secretary Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo credit: Sgt. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

    Army wants to spend nearly $1B on cloud, data by 2025

    Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said lack of funding or a potential delay in the JEDI cloud bid "strikes to the heart of our concern."

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.