Agency Officials Bootstrap Effort to Boost Federal Cyber Workforce

Officials from the Departments of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) are bootstrapping an effort to further clarify and detail roles and career paths of the Federal cybersecurity workforce, the officials said Oct. 21 at the ACT-IAC Imagine Nation 2019 conference.

The largely off-the-books effort is aimed at updating descriptions of Federal cybersecurity job roles – and where they can lead to – in order to increase opportunities for skills development and employment mobility within the government. The effort, the officials said, is intended to make clear to the cyber workforce that the government can offer them long-term, rewarding career paths.

Spearheading the pilot project are: Megan Caposell, Cyber Workforce and Pay Initiatives Program Manager at CISA; Christopher Paris, Senior Advisor for Cyber Workforce Management at VA; and Matt Isner of DoD.

On a nuts and bolts level, the project involves working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and its National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) as those organizations rewrite existing job roles of Federal cybersecurity workers in an effort to better define jobs and their tasks.

At the same time, the ad hoc group organized by the DoD, CISA, and VA officials has been busy conducting focus group sessions with officials from many other Federal agencies to reexamine the descriptions of the government’s 52 defined cybersecurity “work roles.” Caposell said the group expects to complete that work for all 52 work roles by May 2020. At the same time, the NIST/NICE team is expected to produce another iteration of its 2017 cyber workforce document with updated definitions and analysis of Federal cybersecurity work roles.

Caposell said the efforts to hold focus groups and redefine the cybersecurity work roles sprung up from the grass roots of Federal agencies dealing with the well-documented shortage of qualified cybersecurity personnel. “There is nothing chartering what we are doing,” she said, while emphasizing that the effort has the support of the 24 Federal CFO Act agencies.

She said the bottom-line goal of the effort is to improve retention of the Federal cyber workforce, to promote further skills development, and to position the Federal government as an “employer of choice” for cybersecurity professionals.

What will help further those goals, Parish said, is developing the means to provide unique career pathways to Federal cyber workers, and help them see “how you navigate the next step in your career.”

Currently, Isner said, Federal cybersecurity workers “don’t see themselves as progressing to other parts of a career path” with the Feds. He added, “that’s really one of the biggest problems in the Federal workforce now.”

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