Congressman plans cyber workforce development efforts

Rep. Jim Langevin is looking to catalyze better cyber training and expertise at the federal, state and local levels.

Government and society’s increasing reliance on the Internet, and the commensurate cybersecurity dangers it poses, are forcing the U.S. to reevaluate priorities and get creative in meeting today’s threats. But there’s still a capability gap, and one member of Congress is targeting the development of a cyber workforce as one solution.

“The reliance is driving a short-term race to fully staff new missions and a long-term requirement to establish a strong pipeline for cyber talent,” said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), speaking at the University of Rhode Island on May 2.

Langevin plans to push through legislation in Congress and launch efforts in his home state to address both near-term and future deficiencies and catalyze better cyber training and expertise. His goals stem from a cyber workforce workshop he commissioned last year with the Defense Department at National Defense University. The workshop focused on four key areas: the size and growth of the cyber workforce; state and local cyber workforce issues; K-12, college and science, technology, engineering and math education; and credentialing for the cyber workforce.

This workshop stressed not only that the cybersecurity workforce must be significantly expanded, but that it has to grow in both quantity and quality,” Langevin said. “We must define cyber careers that will build a framework for both government and industry positions.”

But he conceded that funding hurdles will only increase, limiting policy options for both state and federal governments.

“The workshop therefore spent significant time exploring how to build partnerships in order to better leverage our resources and find new and unique ways to fill the gaps in the workforce that exist today,” he said. “This initiative is designed to determine what role the local and federal government can play in protecting state, local, or even private assets.”

Langevin noted that his goals for federal cybersecurity progress are bolstered by the recently passed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act and the Federal Information Security Act, at least to some degree, and are a good start. He expressed disappointment in some aspects of the bills, and also stressed that the Obama administration should be provided with a more central coordinating role in cyber policy and authority.

“Five years ago, I and many of you in this room seemed out in the wilderness as we tried to raise awareness about an issue that most had never thought about,” he said. “Now cybersecurity and the cyber debate are part of our daily policy conversations, and it’s universally identified by the country’s top security officials as one of the biggest threats to our national security. We have made progress in protecting the nation in cyberspace, but we must continue to build on this success.”

That ongoing progress includes sustainable job growth in the cyber industry as well as continued efforts to reach students and foster interest in the cyber arena – including a program Langevin announced that targets computer security skills at the high school level. The program is being done in conjunction with the SANS Institute, he said.

“We want to show the next generation that an interest in computers is not just a hobby – it can become a career,” Langevin said.

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