Cyber reskilling pilot attracts 1,500 feds

cyber volunteers 

A Trump administration initiative to retrain federal workers for cybersecurity jobs received more than 1,500 applications, according to the government's top IT official.

On March 1, Federal CIO Suzette Kent tweeted out statistics related to the first round of applicants for the government's new Cyber Reskilling Academy. Among the findings: nearly half of the 1,500 applicants were lower-level feds between GS-5 and GS-11 on the government pay scale. Those applicants just completed aptitude assessments, and the Office of Management and Budget is expected to select finalists for the first 25-person cohort April 1 before kicking off a three-month curriculum starting April 15.

The pilot is envisioned as a vehicle for transitioning parts of the federal workforce toward high-level cybersecurity work greatly needed in the federal government and countering the looming prospect of automation that could lead to the elimination of lower level, manual-driven data entry and analysis positions.

Jeffrey Neal, senior vice president at ICF and a former federal agency chief human capital officer, said that that lower on the GS-scale would be "the right level to target" for a reskilling program looking to convert non-IT professionals into cybersecurity specialists. The initial cohort of 25 candidates will likely serve as a proof of concept for the program, with the ability for "a more rapid scale up if the demand is there."

A senior administration official told FCW in a statement that OMB was not aiming for a specific demographic or GS-scale with the academy, saying the only qualifications to apply were that the applicant be a current federal employee who doesn't work in the IT field.

"Federal employees from all backgrounds and general schedule ranges were encouraged and welcomed to apply," the official said.

Kent indicated that the level of interest in the program was higher than expected, tweeting that the 1,500 applicants "shows there's a great desire" for the program in the federal workforce.

OMB previously said it is planning a second cohort of students in 2019, which will be open to IT professionals and non-IT professionals alike. Neal said that while the program is almost certainly capable of scaling up, it is likely that agency interest will drive the program's longevity and success over the long term.  

"The best measure of success is going to be demand," said Neal. "If agencies want to use the program or replicate it themselves, it is successful. If not, then we learn something and adapt."

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are also looking into ways to fill workforce gaps with existing personnel. For the past two years, Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Peter Hoeven (R-N.D.) have introduced the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Act, which would make it easier for current cyber specialists in the federal government to detail at other agencies experiencing a shortage of trained staff.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee reported favorably on the bill last session, and a legislative report noted that it would complement cyber and workforce initiatives laid out in the Trump administration's Presidential Management Agenda. The Congressional Budget Office reported Feb. 28 that implementing the legislation would cost about $500,000 annually between 2019 and 2024 for new regulations, staff training and administrative expenses.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a senior staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.

Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.

Johnson has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Hofstra University and a Master's degree in public policy from George Mason University. He can be contacted at, or follow him on Twitter @derekdoestech.

Click here for previous articles by Johnson.


  • 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.