Security Bytes

Oct 2 2009   2:13PM GMT

Need a security job? The Feds set a cap on security pros

Robert Westervelt Robert Westervelt Profile: Robert Westervelt


The Department of Homeland Security marks the start of National Cybersecurity Awareness month with a cap on hiring.

The Department of Homeland Security could hire 1,000 cybersecurity related jobs over the three years, according to an announcement Thursday. DHS Secretary janet Napolitano described the positions pretty broadly: Cyber risk and strategic analysis; cyber incident response; vulnerability detection and assessment; intelligence and investigation; and network and systems engineering. That covers just about everything.

Two points that are interesting in this announcement. Napolitano calls the 1,000 position number a “cap.” Also, she says that DHS does not anticipate the need to fill all 1,000 positions.

From the DHS press release:

Although DHS does not anticipate the need to fill all 1,000 positions, this cap reflects the Obama administration’s commitment to equipping DHS with the critical tools necessary to build a world-class cyber organization and compete for cybersecurity talent.

Meanwhile, the role of Cybersecurity Coordinator remains vacant. But as Napolitano points out in her announcement, October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Perhaps this is an incentive for the Obama Administration to announce who will fill the new role.

This is still some fairly positive news, although there’s a lot of room for improvement at the federal level. A recent study highlighted some issues in the DHS hiring process that has impeded getting cybersecurity talent in the federal government. Conducted by the Partnership for Public Service, supported by Booz Allen Hamilton, the study, “Cyber-insecurity: Strengthening the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce” was conducted from January through June 2009.

From the study:

Since the activities and responsibilities of government cybersecurity positions are ill-defned, IT managers and human resource professionals say it is hard to describe to potential applicants and candidates what cybersecurity jobs entail, and therefore difcult to fnd the right talent. In addition, job seekers cannot readily identify available jobs or decide if they’re qualifed or interested, because they may not know how to translate “government speak” to fgure out what category or job title to consider.

Here are some of the takeaways:

  • The pipeline of potential new talent is inadequate.
  • Salary limitations hurt retention.
  • There is a disconnect between front-line hiring managers and government’s HR specialists.

Wouldn’t it have been great if the federal government could have addressed some of the issues highlighted in this report? It recommends some steps the government could take to improve the hiring process, attract and retain talented cybersecurity pros and measure the success of a new hiring program.

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