A new, incentives laden bill to expand cybersecurity education, recruit educators and extend employee training has been proposed by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
The Harvesting American Cybersecurity Knowledge through Education Act (HACKED), bill, sponsored by Republican Sens. John Thune (SD) and committee chairman Roger Wicker (MS) along with Democrat Sens. Maria Cantwell (WA) and Jacky Rosen (NV) offers $200,000 in incentives for regional alliances and partnerships that facilitate cybersecurity education. The Act also supports alliances between local employers and universities to advance cybersecurity education and workforce needs. The bill’s goals are to:
- Provide tools to support necessary cybersecurity education and training.
- Improve recruiting of cybersecurity educators.
- Clearly outline career paths for cyber pros.
- Improve coordination between the involved agencies though a working group operating within the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The sponsoring legislators are all members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. On the agency side, the Act aims to augment existing science education and cybersecurity programs in the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Department of Transportation, the senators said.
“Cybersecurity risks are constant in the growing digital world,” said Wicker. “It is critical that the United States stay ahead of malicious cyber activity with a workforce that can safeguard our innovation, research, and work environments. This legislation is an important first step to expand the cybersecurity workforce and provide tools to support necessary education and training,” he said.
The HACKED bill dovetails with similar legislation, the Cyber Ready Workforce Act, introduced a year ago in the House and Senate, along with a flurry of cyber jobs-related activity at the federal level. The workforce measure, for example, would establish a grant program within the Department of Labor to help create, set up and grow registered apprenticeships for cybersecurity trainees.
“America is facing serious cyber threats every day in today’s increasingly connected world, yet there is a serious shortage of workers needed to confront this urgent challenge,” said Cantwell. "There are currently 300,000 vacancies in our cyber workforce nationwide."
Last May, President Trump signed a new executive order to build and develop the federal government’s cybersecurity workforce. The order ranges from initiatives to close the cybersecurity jobs gap, which the government pegged at 300,000 unfilled positions, to measures to improve the skills of workers.
Part of Trump’s 2020 budget that calls for $9.6 billion in cyber spending is a request to fill the cybersecurity skills gap by supporting the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cyber Talent Management System. Under that process, DHS would be able to circumvent certain hiring restrictions and pay ceilings when on-boarding people with cybersecurity skills. Using this authority, Homeland Security plans to hire at least 150 cybersecurity employees in 2020.