President Obama on Tuesday named Robert Schmidt as his cybersecurity coordinator. As the new cyber czar, Schmidt will be tasked with developing a new comprehensive strategy to secure American networks, ensuring a unified response to cyber incidents, strengthening public-private partnerships and leading national campaign to promote cybersecurity awareness and education.
But underlying all of these goals is the challenge of improving the recruitment and retention of a top-notch federal cyber workforce. In July, the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service released a report that found that the federal government faces major human resource challenges, such as difficulty in recruiting and retaining high-skilled workers, poor management and a lack of coordination that leaves some agencies competing against one another for talent. Such problems are particularly acute within the federal cybersecurity workforce, the Partnership found.
Max Stier, president of the Partnership, told Wired Workplace on Tuesday that it will be critical for Schmidt to ensure that workforce issues are at the forefront of the nation's new cybersecurity goals. "I think [Schmidt] clearly has a terrific background," Stier said. "He's not only been in a premier position in the private sector, but he won't have a steep learning curve in government because he's done this work in the prior administration. ... He has all of the right background and experience."
Specifically, Stier said, Schmidt should work closely with the Office of Personnel Management and agency leaders to develop and implement a governmentwide strategic plan to recruit, hire and retain top cybersecurity talent. Stier also stressed a need for a nationwide call to service for students to develop cybersecurity skills as well as a substantial ramp-up of the federal cybersecurity scholarship program.
"We also need up-to-date cybersecurity job classifications and requirements, and invest in the training of people we have right now," Stier said. "The management cadre needs to supervise and empower the people we need to bring in, and the government needs a system to define whether we have the right skills to match cybersecurity needs. These are all workforce issues that need to be on the list of top priorities."