Security Staff Acquisition & Development, Content

U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Plans to Boost Its Cybersecurity Workforce with “Cultural Shift” to Find New Talent

The Pentagon Headquarters of the United States Department of Defense

The Department of Defense (DoD) has embarked on a strategy to add thousands of cyber workers through recruitment, training and retaining the necessary talent to execute its cyber missions.

Where those workers will come from is the bottom-line question. To attract and retain more cyber talent, the DoD wants to retool its personnel system. A newly released DoD Cyber Workforce Strategy is designed to provide a framework for how the agency will recruit and retain talent amid a global shortage that reaches hundreds of thousands of open jobs.

The strategy aims to help the DoD close workforce development gaps, resource workforce management and development initiatives, stay at the forefront of technological advances, securely and rapidly deliver resilient systems, and transform into a data-centric enterprise with optimized workforce analytics, according to agency officials.

The Road Ahead

It's not going to be that easy. Officials said the plan aims to help the Pentagon to close workforce development gaps and stay current on emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, secure software development. The impediment, of course, is private industry, which is pursuing the same people to do the same work at higher salaries with more perks.

Commenting on the initiative, Patrick Johnson, director, Workforce Innovation Directorate (WID), said:

"We are looking at every aspect of the cyber employee's lifecycle to ensure we are not only finding and hiring a diverse group of skilled cyber specialists but also developing the tools, resources, and partnerships required to continue to grow these individuals professionally."

Indeed, last November, the DoD dropped the education requirements to open up the market for candidates who have chosen through training, industry certifications, on-the-job training, or apprenticeship programs to attain qualified status. A number of federal agencies have opened a new personnel system to augment their ability to recruit, develop and retain entry and expert-level cybersecurity professionals.

In May of 2021, DHS, as a result of a 60-day workforce sprint, was able to fill some 12% of 2,000 job vacancies.

Pentagon's Four Pillars

The Pentagon’s strategy uses four “human capital” pillars — Identification, Recruitment, Development and Retention — to identify and group cyber workforce challenges:

  • Identification. The processes of determining workforce needs or requirements and the potential or incumbent workforce to meet them.
  • Recruitment. Identifying and attracting the talent needed to meet mission requirements and the process of evaluating the effectiveness of recruiting efforts.
  • Development. Understanding individual and team performance requirements and providing the necessary opportunities and resources to satisfy those performance requirements.
  • Retention. The incentive programs the DoD employs to retain talent and the process of evaluating the effectiveness of the incentive programs.

Successful execution of this strategy will accomplish the following goals:

  • Goal 1. Execute consistent capability assessment and analysis processes to stay ahead of force needs.
  • Goal 2. Establish an enterprise-wide talent management program to better align force capabilities with current and future requirements.
  • Goal 3. Facilitate a cultural shift to optimize Department-wide personnel management activities.
  • Goal 4. Foster collaboration and partnerships to enhance capability development, operational effectiveness, and career broadening experiences.

“There has to be a cultural shift in the department in how we acquire talent and how we manage it,” said Johnson. “We do a very good job on the military side, but on the civilian side, we have to fundamentally change how we manage that talent and look at it from an enterprise. The foundation for that is being able to identify that workforce.”

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.