US Cybersecurity Workforce Needed Quickly

April 22, 2021 by Victoria Turner
U.S. Coast Guard Academy Participates in NSA Cyber Exercise 2021 (Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Hunter Medley, U.S. Coast Guard Academy)

WASHINGTON – As Congress continues to worry about the nation’s cybersecurity, a key high-ranking military witness during a Senate hearing Wednesday said he was “concerned about the pace” of building an adequate cybersecurity workforce. 

When Congress tasked the Department of Defense and military services with building up this cybersecurity workforce, most recently enhanced by the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, “[they] said to be absolutely certain that we get the right talent basically delivered at the right time, and I am not absolutely certain,” said USMC Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, director of communications and spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

“The divide within the need is growing compared to what we are able to fulfill,” Crall said at a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel hearing evaluating the progress of fulfilling these “recruit, develop and retain” objectives through the enhancements authorized in the NDAA. 

The hearing comes a day after the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued an emergency directive for federal civilian agencies to review the integrity of their files after learning that Pulse Secure’s remote private networking tool had been hacked in mid-2020. 

Continuous cyberattacks have led to worries of underinvestment in offensive and defensive cybersecurity capabilities, with claims arising that the US may already be in the middle of a “cyber cold war.” The pace and speed of the “digital nature of the fight that we expect…is going to demand a workforce and talent that we have not seen before,” Crall said. And a change in approach may be necessary.

Offering a more “sobering look,” Crall said he has come to the realization that salary is not the “driving factor” in recruiting and retaining talent. After meeting with “dozens of individuals” fitting the exact bill of those they’d want to recruit, Crall said that the candidates all listed the same key drivers: location, organizational structure, schedule and dress code, student debt, and cause. 

Regardless of compensation or add-ons, individuals do not want to move away from where they live. Also, the “hierarchy” of the military is unappealing to them as they want to have “equal input,” and their prime working hours are noon to 3 a.m., without having to wear a uniform. Most surprising to Crall was that they want a program that helps them address student debt more than they care about salary. The last driver – working for a cause – was where “we do really well,” he said, but “time is ticking.”  

Crall suggested there is a need to review the existing programs, optimize and “maximize” those that are working and “retire” those that are not. For example, he explained, a solution to the relocation issue is to create secure environments for remote work.

Room for improvement, however, does not mean great progress has not been underway or that the picture is hopelessly bleak. Veronica Hinton, acting deputy assistant secretary for defense for civilian personnel policy, said the enhanced hiring and compensation authorities Congress granted have proven highly beneficial in recruiting through the Cyber Excepted Service and recently rolling out strategies like the Targeted Local Market Supplements – additional compensation on top of the base salary to compete against market pay rates. 

Educational partnerships have also been growing. The National Center for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, for example, has a consortium of over 80 academic institutions, which Crall said, “provides an interface to build that cyber warrior we are looking for.” He emphasized, however, that not all the talent comes with a degree. 

Even though the expanded authorities have been incredibly helpful and beneficial, Hinton said the compensation range is subject to the existing payment cap of 25%. In order to compete with the private sector’s higher salaries, there may be a need to expand this compensation authority. 

“We can’t compete based on money,” Hinton said, echoing Crall in that, “We win the call-to-service competition.” 

In The News

Health

Voting

Cybersecurity

Ransomware Gangs Get Paid Off as Officials Struggle for Fix
Cybercrime
Ransomware Gangs Get Paid Off as Officials Struggle for Fix

BOSTON (AP) — If your business falls victim to ransomware and you want simple advice on whether to pay the criminals, don't expect much help from the U.S. government. The answer is apt to be: It depends. "It is the position of the U.S. government that... Read More

Senators Try to Get Tough On Rise in Cybercrime
Cybersecurity
Senators Try to Get Tough On Rise in Cybercrime
June 17, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- A group of U.S. senators responded Thursday to recent ransomware attacks by introducing legislation to impose new tactics and harsh penalties on cyberattackers. They pinned much of the blame on Russia, despite denials a day earlier by Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The Russians do... Read More

Warner Contemplates Mandatory Cyberattack Reporting Bill
Cybersecurity
Warner Contemplates Mandatory Cyberattack Reporting Bill
June 16, 2021
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — The rise in profit-driven cyberattacks has prompted Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., to contemplate a mandatory reporting bill so law enforcement can promptly take action on urgent threats. Warner told Axios recently that he anticipates broad support for such upcoming... Read More

White House, Congress Aligned on Cybersecurity Goals
Cybersecurity
White House, Congress Aligned on Cybersecurity Goals
June 16, 2021
by Victoria Turner

WASHINGTON - As Congress edges closer to putting a final infrastructure bill on President Joe Biden’s desk, it looks like lawmakers and the White House are aligned in their commitment to bolster U.S. cybersecurity through increased federal investment, focusing on prevention and utilizing public-private partnerships to... Read More

Kakto Presses Administration to Take Cybersecurity More Seriously
Think Tanks
Kakto Presses Administration to Take Cybersecurity More Seriously
June 11, 2021
by Victoria Turner

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y. recently went into a couple of Lincoln car dealerships in Syracuse, New York, but “neither one of them had any cars.”  “And they’re not going to have any cars for several weeks because of the chip shortage,” Katko said during a "fireside... Read More

Federal Government Prepares to Take Lead in Protecting Industry Computer Networks
Cybersecurity
Federal Government Prepares to Take Lead in Protecting Industry Computer Networks
June 10, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- Testimony at a congressional hearing Wednesday on last month’s Colonial Pipeline Co. ransomware attack demonstrated that a bigger role for the federal government is coming soon to protect private computer networks. The Georgia-based company’s chief executive officer admitted to internal failures in protecting the... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top