The Federal government has long struggled to close the cybersecurity workforce gap. The problem has continued to get worse as the number of threats against our networks, critical infrastructure, intellectual property, and the millions of IoT devices we use in our homes, offices and on our infrastructure increase. Without a robust cyber workforce, federal agencies will continue to struggle to develop and execute the policies needed to combat these ongoing issues.
The recent executive order on developing the nation’s cybersecurity workforce was a key step to closing that gap and shoring up the nation’s cyber posture. The widespread adoption of the cybersecurity workforce framework by NIST, the development of a rotational program for Federal employees to expand their cybersecurity expertise and the “president’s cup” competition are all crucial to retaining and growing the federal cyber workforce. If we are to get serious about closing the federal workforce gap, we have to encourage our current professionals to stay in the federal service and grow their expertise to defend against the threats of today and prepare for the threats of tomorrow.
Further, we must do more to bring individuals into the field by eliminating barriers of entry and increasing the educational opportunities available for people so that there can be a strong, diverse and growing cybersecurity workforce in both the federal government and the private sector. Expanding scholarship programs through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for students who agree to work for federal and state agencies will go a long way to bringing new, diverse individuals into the industry. Additionally, these programs should be expanded to include many types of educational institutions including community colleges. Community colleges attract a different type of student than a 4-year institution, increasing diversity within the federal workforce while also tapping into a currently unused pipeline for cyber talent.
The administration’s prioritization of this issue is a positive step forward, and there has been progress made on closing the cyber skills gap in the U.S., but there is still work to be done. If we want to create a robust, diverse cyber workforce, the private sector, lawmakers and the administration must work together to come up with innovative solutions that build upon the recent executive order.