DHS dangles respect -- in lieu of high pay -- for cyber experts

Featured eBooks

Digital First
Cloud Smarter
Cybersecurity & the Road Ahead

The Homeland Security Department is instituting a roadmap for cultivating needed computer security skills.

Key Homeland Security Department officials have begun instituting cybersecurity task force recommendations received just last week. Struggling to compete financially with corporate salaries for insufficient cyber talent, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in June organized a 15-person group of technology revolutionaries to work out an economical solution to the human capital problem. The answer? Endow a sense of purpose, not big checks.

“We can do a lot more to create an environment in which exceptional cyber talent is put to good use immediately, it’s valued, it’s rewarded and it’s recognized,” DHS Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute told Nextgov.

“The motivation is to connect with something larger than yourself,” she said. “We’re trying to create a culture that allows cyber heroes to bring value and to feel valued,” where they can fix wrongs and are supported by their bosses.

Lute doesn’t mean Homeland Security intends to rip off what the department hopes will be a best-in-class cyber workforce. “The paycheck also matters,” she said, and personnel “can’t afford to work for free.” But wages may not be comparable to private sector compensation, Lute acknowledged.

The DHS cyber chiefs, including Mark Weatherford, deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity, and Cybersecurity Division Director John Streufert, have “day jobs,” so Lute is leading the implementation of the cyber skills report, she said. Senior department leaders convened one organizing meeting last week and another is scheduled for next week.