recommended reading

More Than 1 in 5 Cyber Jobs Vacant at Key DHS Division

Homeland Security cyber security analysts work in 2011.

Homeland Security cyber security analysts work in 2011. // Mark J. Terrill/AP file photo

More than one in five jobs at a key cybersecurity component within the Homeland Security Department are vacant, in large part due to steep competition in recruiting and hiring qualified personnel, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.  

The report, which assessed recruiting and hiring efforts at DHS overall, found that the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications – the subcomponent within the National Protection and Programs Directorate that houses cybersecurity personnel – has a vacancy rate of 22 percent.

NPPD officials cited challenges in recruiting cyber professionals because of the length of time taken to conduct security checks to grant top-secret security clearances as well as low pay in comparison with the private sector.

A lack of clearly defined skills or unique occupational series for cybersecurity positions is not only hindering recruitment efforts but also DHS’ efforts to measure cybersecurity hiring and attrition, GAO found. Without a defined career series and path, cybersecurity personnel are spread throughout a number of different occupational series within NPPD, meaning officials could not provide GAO with specific hire and loss data on the cyber workforce.

NPPD has taken a number of steps to help offset these recruiting challenges, including using direct hire authority and establishing relationships with cybersecurity centers of academic excellence to create a pipeline of qualified cyber staff. There also are department-wide efforts to boost the cyber workforce, particularly through the creation of a specific cybersecurity job series, GAO found.

GAO’s assessment was released just one day before a National Academies of Science report, which was sponsored by DHS, concluded that cybersecurity is much too young and diverse a discipline to introduce professionalization standards. Introducing these standards now, particularly given the staffing shortages that already exist in the field, would likely be counterproductive, the report found.

While the GAO report offered no specific recommendations on overcoming cybersecurity recruiting challenges, it did recommend that DHS work to better assess its departmentwide recruiting and outreach strategy by requiring all components provide consistent recruiting cost information to the department’s chief human capital office. DHS said these efforts are already underway, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31.

“Doing so would help DHS better track the amount of resources being spent on recruiting and outreach throughout DHS and assess the extent to which increased coordination and leveraging resources have decreased recruiting costs,” the report states. 

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.