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Talent: DHS Plans 150 Cybersecurity Hires

By most measures, we’re short more than three million qualified, skilled cybersecurity experts to help blunt the growing hacking menace. It’s as much a statement of how fast and agile move the attackers as how difficult it is to find and train the defenders.

All stakeholders agree that solving the skills gap is a worsening problem, one that besets the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a cybersecurity-centric unit of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that plays as the nation’s risk advisor. Under a new White House-driven initiative, DHS is reformulating its hiring methods reasoning that it will help the agency find qualified people who might otherwise slip through the cracks.

The feds have allocated $11.4 million to fund development of the Cyber Talent Management System to enable DHS to “recruit and retail rare, valuable cybersecurity talent,” according to the agency’s budget outline for fiscal 2020. DHS intends to hire at least 150 new cybersecurity staffers under the new system by the end of FY 2020. The program is set to roll out later this year.

“There’s not enough capability to go around,” said CISA director Chris Krebs reportedly said last week at the Forcepoint Cybersecurity Leadership Forum (via NextGov). ”There’s no question there’s a security consolidation happening—particularly with some of the big tech companies, the rich are getting richer.”

The plan is to select candidates based on what they can actually do rather than how well they fit the job description. In this way, the new schematic will enable CISA to “hire people based on their skill sets, not what’s on a piece of paper,” Krebs said. “I need a different set of hiring authorities and that’s part of what we’re doing.” If the personnel system works as planned it will provide a continuous pipeline of skilled candidates. “I would love to be in a situation where I don’t have enough seats to put somebody,” he reportedly said.

What’s different with the new hiring program?

  • A focus on capabilities not just the duties of the job.
  • A focus on continuous development and refreshment of cybersecurity capabilities.
  • Recognizing that mission needs and talent shifts occur across DHS, resulting in the ability to move individuals around seamlessly.

The new talent management system is part of a White House reorganization plan to set a uniform set of standards to recruit, hire, train, retain, and compensate cybersecurity personnel across agencies. Previously, each Federal department and agency was responsible for addressing its own cybersecurity workforce gaps.

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