The White House announced today that the Obama administration is directing a series of actions to “identify, recruit, develop, retain, and expand the pipeline of the best, brightest, and most diverse cybersecurity talent for Federal service.”

The first-ever Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Strategy aims to grow the pipeline of highly skilled cybersecurity talent entering federal service, and retain and better invest in the talent already in public service.

This workforce will be tasked with protecting government IT systems, networks and data from “sophisticated adversaries,” safeguarding sensitive data and supporting the country’s financial, energy, healthcare and other critical systems.

The Cybersecurity Strategy Establishes Four Key Initiatives:

  • Expand the Cybersecurity Workforce through Education and Training. The Cybersecurity Workforce Strategy supports the CNAP initiatives that propose investing $62 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 funding to expand cybersecurity education across the Nation.
  • Recruit the Nation’s Best Cyber Talent for Federal Service. The Workforce Strategy initiates efforts to implement a government-wide recruitment strategy that includes enhanced outreach efforts to diverse cyber talent —including women, minorities, and veterans— from apprenticeship programs, colleges, universities, and private industry, as part of a comprehensive plan.
  • Retain and Develop Highly Skilled Talent. To improve employee retention and development efforts, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will work with Federal agencies to develop cybersecurity career paths, badging and credentialing programs, rotational assignments, and foster opportunities for employees to obtain new skills and become subject matter experts in their field.
  • Identify Cybersecurity Workforce Needs. Cybersecurity is a dynamic and crosscutting field, and effective workforce planning requires a clear understanding of the gaps between the workforce of today and the needs of tomorrow.  The Workforce Strategy directs agencies to adopt a new approach to identifying their cybersecurity workforce gaps by using the National Cybersecurity Workforce Framework developed by National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) partner agencies, which identifies 31 discrete specialty areas within cybersecurity workforce.

As part of a broad-sweeping review of Federal cybersecurity policies, plans, and procedures, the Cybersecurity Sprint launched by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) last year revealed two key observations about the Federal cybersecurity workforce:

  • Federal agencies’ lack of cybersecurity and IT talent is a major resource constraint that impacts their ability to protect information and assets; and,
  • A number of existing Federal initiatives address this challenge, but implementation and awareness of these programs are inconsistent.

The Federal Government has already hired 3,000 new cybersecurity and IT professionals in the first 6 months of this fiscal year, but it is committed to a plan by which agencies would hire 3,500 more individuals to fill critical cybersecurity and IT positions by January 2017.