TheConversation

Blog archive

Are cyber workforce woes actually all about the money?

dollar signs

FCW's October feature on federal cybersecurity personnel -- "Is there a cybersecurity workforce crisis?" -- took a critical look at the requirements the government faces in securing essential IT networks and operations. But some readers thought it was not critical enough, particularly when it comes to the reasons why workers take government jobs rather than higher-paying private-sector roles.

An anonymous reader commented:

In order to appeal to a sense of "duty" or "country" and/or a "love of technology," the appeal has to be followed through with actual empowerment. As a contractor, I have heard this sales pitch more times than I can count, and I have never seen it realized. Also, the idea that compensation is not a primary motivator is horribly skewed. Many young cyber professionals recruited by federal agencies leave for contractors because they can be paid sometimes two to three times the federal salary for doing the exact same work, with the exact same fulfillment of "duty" and "country." If the federal agencies want to recruit and retain cyber professionals as federal employees, they are going to need to minimize bureaucracy, empower the workforce to effect change, and realign their overhead to provide compensation competitive enough for federal workers to live next door to contractors -- experience and education being equal -- in areas where the cost of living is so high (D.C. metro area is a good example).

Reader Howard Risher wrote:

I do not understand how or even why you would write a story about any aspect of the technology workforce and not focus on the closely related problem: Federal salary increases have to be competitive. It's broader than cybersecurity -- it extends to all STEM occupations.

Amber Corrin responds:

All good points. Across the board, the current and former federal officials I asked about compensation agreed that the government faces serious challenges, if not outright inabilities, in offering pay equal to the private sector. This is particularly true in an era of sequestration and budget cuts that are forcing federal managers to get creative with recruiting.

At the Defense Department, officials sang the same tune, although some also alluded to being able to move money around to try to entice cybersecurity professionals with better pay than some other government positions. Obviously, that's not a sustainable approach, but it does illustrate a borderline-frantic pursuit of professionals with the right stuff.

That's why, in the story, there was a lot of discussion about perks other than money. Appealing to that pool of talent that seeks a different kind of benefit -- a pool that studies show does exist and largely seems composed of Generation Y workers -- appears to be a strategy that government managers can more easily embrace than squeezing the proverbial blood from budgetary stones.

As for the idea that contractor work provides the "exact same fulfillment of duty and country," that might be true of the veteran feds who have endured many years of the trials and tribulations of government employment. However, I'm not so sure it is equally true of the fresh faces seeking those attributes in government work now -- those same fresh faces of which the government is in dire need.

Posted by Amber Corrin on Oct 23, 2013 at 10:32 AM


The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group