Cyber workforce order doesn't solve the retention problem

Shutterstock image ID: 569172169 By Zenzen 

The new cyber workforce executive order looks to make it easier for employees to take on cybersecurity roles within government, but agency IT officials point out the measure has limitations.

Shane Barney, chief information security officer of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the order still leaves the challenge of keeping employees in the building.

"What I'm not sure how much will get addressed with the executive order is, what about retention?" he said at a May 9 event hosted by Government CIO. "Where government is unbelievably good, is we can bring in fresh talent … then we'll train them like there's no tomorrow" before they get hired by the private sector.

Barney said government use "some really great things" like cyber pay and progressing up the general schedule as incentives for retaining some employees, but he still sees employees, after the training and experience provided by government, head out the door.

"I'm sure any CISO or any CIO could tell you the horror stories of that exact same experience," he said. "It really hurts us. And that's a difficult gap to breach."

Beth Killoran, deputy CIO at the General Services Administration, said that the public service pull of working in government is a strong one, "but if we aren't being able to, at some point, meet the new employee's needs … they're going to look for other opportunities."

The executive order "is not going to increase or decrease retention," she said, adding that keeping employees fulfilled and meeting their career needs is "something we have to be conscious of."

Killoran also said that when it comes to policy, she wouldn't want anything that would "limit folks in their career opportunities," because a restrictive or binding contract could have the effect of pushing otherwise interested people away from government.

The most effective ways to keep employees, she said, include continuing and tailoring training and procuring "as good of technology as we can provide" for the workplace to show employees that "you don't have to go to a Google or an Amazon to get the latest tech."

"If we can either show folks that we can improve their skillset or show folks they'll have opportunities they're not going to have at a different agency or the private sector, that's what's going to keep them," she said.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter


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