The Justice Department is recruiting cyber professionals under special rules to fill vacancies more quickly now that funding constraints have eased somewhat, the department's top network security official said. While the severity of hacks is increasing, civilian agencies still struggle to bring capable computer programmers on staff.
Justice is moving beyond "the sequestration, the budget concerns from the last couple of years," Justice Chief Information Security Officer Melinda Rogers told Nextgov. She was referring to governmentwide spending cuts that took effect March 2013. "Our hiring freeze has lifted, and we're moving forward."
To lure cyber sleuths, Justice promotes career opportunities to computer whizzes who have collaborated with the department, she said.
"We are also proactively networking within the community, as we come across individuals that we work with on a day-to-day basis that we find to be talented, Rogers said.
She added that the department has been granted the ability to fast-track offers through a "direct hire authority." But all positions are listed publicly on the official government website, USAJOBS.gov. "It's an open and fair competition process,” Rogers said.
She had just finished speaking at a cyber human capital conference hosted by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management and the U.S. Cyber Challenge, an organization working to build the nation’s cybersecurity workforce.
An FBI supervisory special agent recently said, at a separate event, that his agency’s cyber division plans to hire 1,000 agents and 1,000 analysts in the coming year, according to Bloomberg.
Within Rogers' wing, there are "a handful" of openings, “but we're actually filling up quickly," she said.
Departmentwide, four cyber-related positions are posted on the official federal website USAJOBS.gov. Justice needs a Counterintelligence, Export Control and Economic Espionage Chief, which is a senior executive position, and the FBI is looking for three salaried General Schedule computer scientists.
Expedited hiring only goes so far, though. At other civilian agencies, it has not boosted staffing as quickly as officials anticipated.
In 2010, then-Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano said her department had been granted direct hire authority to add 1,000 new cyber professionals over three years so the department could compete with the Pentagon's accelerated hiring process. Estimates by DHS, the Defense Department and the Government Accountability Office tallied fewer than 1,500 DHS cyber professionals compared with 66,000 to 88,000 personnel Defensewide.
Today, Homeland Security still suffers from a shortage of key cyber analysts, according to the DHS inspector general.