New missions could present challenges for the DOD cyber workforce

The Defense Department doesn't have the cyber workforce it needs to cover additional mission objectives, a top defense cyber official said.

Mieke Eoyang, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy, told reporters Wednesday that one of DOD's main cyber workforce challenges is being able to set expectations around policymakers' calls to step in and defend against cyberattacks.

Eoyang said the military service members in DOD's cyber workforce is "appropriately sized to the missions that we have" but not for additional missions during the Defense Writers Group event Oct. 20.

"There are questions about how far the policymakers would like us to go. And so if there [are] additional missions, then we're certainly not sized for that," Eoyang said, adding that the ability to sustain and retain the cyber workforce is also a factor.

The defense policy official's comments come as the Defense Department completes a zero-based review of its civilian cybersecurity and IT workforce as mandated by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. John Sherman, then-acting DOD CIO who is now up for Senate confirmation of the position, testified in April that the office was developing a new policy series aimed at improving the cyber workforce amid retention challenges. A DOD inspector general audit from July 2021 found that incomplete or inaccurate job coding of cyber work roles may have contributed to "identification and maintenance of the right skill set."

Eoyang said an important goal in developing the next cyber strategy is considering the best way to mature the cyber workforce and make it sustainable.

"The department plays a really important role in training cyber security personnel, which can feed a national shortfall, but we need to think carefully about how that pipeline works both for the benefit of the department but also benefit the nation," Eoyang said.

This article was updated to clarify Eoyang's comments on military cyber workforce levels.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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