DHS closes in on new compensation rules for cyber talent

Shutterstock image ID: 569172169 By Zenzen 

The Department of Homeland Security is making headway with a cybersecurity talent management system, top agency IT officials said, but it is a painstaking job to re-engineer the agency's long-standing hiring processes.

The agency is working to change hiring regulations in the coming months that will power its Cybersecurity Talent Management System (CTMS), said Angela Bailey, DHS chief human capital officer.

DHS unveiled the CTMS in 2019 as a way to help the department better align non-educational qualifications of a candidate to the right pay scale. The CTMS has its roots in a 2014 Border Patrol Pay Reform Act that mandated a new pay system and methodology to pay agents.

"Congress gave us the opportunity to rewrite and do actual civil service reform. Rather than just dink around the edges, we took the opportunity to scrap the civil service and create a brand new cybersecurity service for the department," said Bailey at AFFIRM's Oct. 8 Cybersecurity Challenge webcast.

The four-to-five years' work on the CTMS, said Bailey, has been a long road. "People might think, 'gee why is it taking so long?'" she said. "We're undoing a system that started in 1929" with the payroll systems set up for the Border Patrol, she said.

Part of the process, she said, is federal rulemaking. DHS, said Bailey, is clearing new payroll rules internally at the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget that will allow the system to move forward.

With the elections and other external factors dragging on federal processes in the coming months, Bailey said she expects the rules to appear in the Federal Register for public comment in late spring.

DHS CIO Karen Evans called CTMS a critical piece of the agency's ability to get the best cyber talent not only from within the federal government, but from commercial markets by automatically matching skillsets, and offering comparable salaries.

"I'll be able to match the pay with what you could get in private industry," said Evans in remarks during the webcast. The system will let DHS hire outside job candidates developed in programs such as the U.S. Cyber Challenge and other cybersecurity competitions who might otherwise enter the private sector.

When the system becomes operational, said Evans during remarks during the webcast, federal civil employees will be able to move to a different pay scale, as well as sharpen job candidate assessment capabilities, and better match job listing requirements.

Bailey wants to be able to create hands-on hiring scenarios that require applicants to use actual job skills to handle mock cyber incidents and forensics in what she calls "state of the art assessments."

The CTMS with its advanced capabilities, such as market-sensitive pay and the ability to recruit people based on their talent, not on a position, "breaks apart everything that the federal government is used to," she said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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