ARGUMENT: Cyber workforceU.S. Gov. Facing a Severe Cyber Workers Shortage When They Are Needed the Most

Published 3 August 2021

The U.S. government is struggling to find and hire cybersecurity workers precisely at the time it needs such workers most in order to protect the government and its cyber systems from an unprecedented, and ever-more-menacing, wave of cyberattacks.

The U.S. government is struggling to find and hire cybersecurity workers precisely at the time it needs such workers most in order to protect the government and its cyber systems from an unprecedented, and ever-more-menacing, wave of cyberattacks.

Russia and China have dramatically intensified cyberattacks on the United States by both Russian and Chinese government hacking, and by Russian and Chinese private hacking groups and ransomware gangs enjoying the broad protection of the two governments. In exchange for such protection, these groups and gangs share the money they extort and the information they glean with their governments.

Joseph Marks, with Aaron Schaffer, write in the Washington Post that the growing shortages of cyber workers is making much more difficult to protect government systems from being compromised and government data from being stolen by adversaries determined to exploit U.S. vulnerabilities.

This shortage also make it more difficult for the U.S. government to help improve cybersecurity in industries vital to the national and economic security of the nation.

The government’s cyber systems are notoriously outdated, and the growing shortage of cyber talent makes operating such systems safely even more challenging.

Marks and Schaffer note that officials have described the shortage of cyber workers as a national security threat

Marks and Schaffer write:

The government’s cyber workforce has grown by about 8 percent since 2016. A hiring sprint at the Department of Homeland Security resulted in nearly 300 new cyber hires and about 500 more job offers between May and July. 

But that’s nowhere near sufficient to meet the threats. By DHS’s own calculations, there are about 1,700 more cybersecurity vacancies it needs to fill at the department. 

….

Max Stier, head of the Partnership for Public Service, told lawmakers during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on cyber hiring.

Stier’s testimony highlighted deep problems in the government’s cyber workforce. 

·  The cyber workforce since 2016 has actually shrunk at some federal agencies, including the Labor and Agriculture departments.

·  Just 25 percent of government cyber workers are female.

·  There are 16 times more federal IT workers older than 50 than there are younger than 30.

His suggested fixes:

·  Hold top government officials accountable when their agencies can’t retain cyber workers.

·  Create more paid internships for young cybersecurity professionals and make it easy to move from internships to government jobs.

·  Make it easier to pay government cyber professionals higher salaries that compete with the private sector.

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