Senators reintroduce rotational cyber workforce bill

Shutterstock image ID: 569172169 By Zenzen 

Four senators have reintroduced legislation that would make it easier for cyber specialists in the federal government to detail at other agencies and lend their expertise.

The Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Act was introduced in September 2018 by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where it was reported on favorably. Peters is now the ranking Democrat on the committee. Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) have signed on to the reintroduced bill as cosponsors.

"The federal government faces mounting cybersecurity threats, from attacks on our critical infrastructure to security breaches that reveal millions of Americans’ personal information, "Peters said in a statement. "This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that the federal government has the skilled workforce in place to combat emerging threats and help federal employees cultivate new skills and expertise in this in-demand field."

A legislative report last year argued that the bill would complement the 2015 Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Act and comport with initiatives kicked off through the Office of Management and Budget’s reorganization plan. The latest version released last year would empower the Office of Personnel Management to develop an operational plan for the program and put together a list of open rotational cyber workforce positions where agencies have identified a need. Feds would be able to apply for a detail to another office or agency for up to 14 months, pending approval from their managers.

A spokesperson for Peters told FCW that the reintroduced bill will be almost identical to the version reported out of committee last year.

Johnson has indicated that finding ways to boost the federal government's human capital around cybersecurity will be one of the committee's top priorities in the new Congress. In a statement, Johnson said the bill would make help make federal cybersecurity positions more attractive to both current feds and prospective job-seekers.

The partial government shutdown affected a number of departments and agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, that significantly rely on a steady pipeline of cyber-proficient employees to carry out their missions. Those agencies were already reporting that it has been a struggle to retain and attract talented cybersecurity employees, and both current and former national security officials as well as members of Congress have expressed concern that the dysfunction and payment delays caused by the latest shutdown will exacerbate those problems.

A survey of 150 federal IT officials released this week by OneLogin found that nearly half (48 percent) believe they do not have adequate cybersecurity staff to protect their systems and networks from cyberattacks. Another study released in January 2019 found that a "weakening in the capacity of the government's workforce and its organizational structures is plainly evident" causing "a perceptible loss of collective resilience to detect and respond to adverse events."

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a former senior staff writer at FCW.


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