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Does the Government Need to Rethink Its Weed Ban to Get Cyber Talent?

By Jack Moore // 8:59 AM ET

Some members of Congress want to know if the government’s prohibition on pot-smoking federal employees is harming its ability to recruit top cybersecurity talent.

Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., have submitted amendments to two sweeping pieces of cyber information-sharing legislation being considered by the House this week that would require the director of national intelligence to report to Congress on how the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug impacts the government’s cyber-recruiting efforts.

An executive order dating to the Reagan administration outright bans federal employees from toking up -- even off-duty. Prospective job candidates in sensitive positions within both the government and at Beltway contractors are queried about their drug use as part of the security clearance process.

FBI Director James Comey caused a kerfuffle last year when he said he was “grappling” with his agency’s no-tolerance policy for hiring employees who admitted using marijuana within the past three years.

“A lot of the nation’s top computer programmers and hacking gurus are also fond of marijuana,” he said in a May 2014 speech. “I have to hire a great workforce to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to ...

How Secure is an Email Tip Line for Federal Employees?

By Hallie Golden // April 17, 2015

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. // J. Scott Applewhite/AP File Photo

Congressman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on government operations, wants to provide federal whistleblowers -- and simply fed-up feds ---with an anonymous forum to air their workplace grievances.

Meadow encouraged federal employees concerned about their workplaces to drop him a line at TellMark@mail.house.gov. But is an email account really the best platform available?

The most recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey of 400,000 federal workers found overall job satisfaction with agency leaders the lowest in five years. 

“From the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we have seen gross employee misconduct that has gone unaddressed, contributing to low morale in the federal workplace,” Meadows said in a statement.

The announcement of the tip line stressed that complaints would remain anonymous. A decade ago, such assurance might have been enough. But today, privacy concerns run rampant.

The American Civil Liberties Union recently called attention to the potential security lapses on a number of agency inspector general websites designed to help employees report waste, fraud or abuse. Twenty-nine of these sites don't currently use Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure connection, which blocks malicious third parties from intercepting connections and accessing ...

Federal Employees, Don’t Do This on Social Media

By Jack Moore // April 17, 2015

Twin Design/Shutterstock.com

The Office of Governmentwide Ethics has laid out new guidance for personal social media use by government employees. 

Ethics officials say they’ve been inundated with questions from agencies about how their employees’ Twitter and Facebook habits conform with govermentwide ethics rules.

Much of the guidance laid out in the April 9 memo to agency officials amounts to common sense. But here are some of the specific dos and don’ts that could trip up social-media savvy feds. 

Bosses: Don’t Ask Employees to Help You Tweet

Generally, when employees are on duty, governmentwide conduct standards require they focus their time on official duties. Some agencies may allow “limited personal use” of government resources, a laptop, say, to check social media.

However, one big no-no? Your boss asking you to help him or her set up a personal social media account.

A supervisor cannot order -- or even ask -- a subordinate to work on the supervisor’s personal social media account.

“Coercing or inducing a subordinate to maintain the supervisor’s personal account would amount to a misuse of position and, if done on official time, a misuse of official time,” the guidance states.

You Can Use Your Work Title -- But ...

Shortage of IT Security Professionals not Unique to Government

By Hallie Golden // April 16, 2015

Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock.com

The federal government is not the only entity struggling to fill its ranks with talented information security professionals. The entire world appears to be in the same boat, according to a new study.

Conducted by growth consulting company Frost & Sullivan, the (ISC)² Global Information Security Workforce Study polled almost 14,000 information security professionals around the world. Twenty percent of those polled indicated they were government employees. 

The survey discovered a clear consensus: The world is not producing enough information security professionals to keep up with demand.

“A perfect storm is enveloping the information security workforce with the resulting wake being a widening gap between the number of security professionals needed and the actual number available to be hired,” the report stated.

More than 60 percent of respondents said their organizations currently have too few information security workers. That's up 6 percent from from the same survey in 2013.

Two years ago, the majority of the survey’s respondents stated the dearth was because of insufficient funds, or “that business conditions could not support additional personnel.”

This year, respondents said the personnel shortage is because organizations have a difficult time finding qualified workers has climbed by 8 percent since ...

Google's Other Big Research Project: Curbing Its Own Prejudice

By Joe Pinsker // The Atlantic // April 16, 2015

l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock.com

Self-driving cars, balloons that beam Internet service to previously unconnected citizens below, immortality—these are the farsighted, high-risk pursuits that Google calls its "moonshots." But another one of its wildly ambitious projects isn't classified as such, and falls a lot closer to campus: curbing workplace discrimination. The company, which has roughly two male employees for every female employee, has spent three years making data-based revisions to its hiring and promotion processes.

No company—and certainly no tech company—has figured out how to dissolve the unconscious biases that govern human-resources decisions. And even if Google found a proven fix for its diversity problem, change would still come slowly. “At our rate of hiring, if we wanted to move to 50-50, we'd have to hire only women for something like the next four, five, or six years,” says Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations at Google. “To have a meaningful change in the numbers and representation is actually going to take a while because it turns out it's illegal to only hire women or only hire African Americans. So it's going more slowly than I'd like, and more slowly than we'd like ...