18F for Cybersecurity? Tech Think Tank Wants Congress to Consider It.

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The group suggests thinking outside traditional degrees in STEM fields to address the talent shortage.

A nonpartisan think tank believes Congress should create an “18F for cybersecurity” that would collaborate with other agencies on cyber issues and help combat the government’s talent shortage by recruiting top private-sector cybersecurity talent to government ranks.

The recommendation is one of many in the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation makes in its lengthy “Tech Policy To-Do List” for the new Congress and Trump administration.

In this scenario, Congress would create another wing under the General Services Administration to mirror 18F—which brings in private-sector talent for tours of duty—only this wing would focus explicitly on cybersecurity issues.

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“The goal of the initiative would be to incorporate private-sector knowledge and nongovernment culture into high-impact, high-priority federal government cybersecurity projects,” the list said. “Members of this team could serve short-term stints based on new projects, agency needs and available funding.”

While at times in oversight crosshairs over finances, 18F and its sister agency, the U.S. Digital Service, have worked to solve various tech problems across dozens of federal agencies.

The recommendation shares similarities with a proposition Congress recently explored. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, who chairs the information technology subcommittee, probed witnesses at an early April hearing over whether a corps of short-term cyber recruits could fill the talent gap federal agencies currently face.

The private sector, too, has more cyber jobs than it can fill, but the government’s challenges are exacerbated because it generally can’t compensate cyber professionals as well as industry.

To address workforce shortfalls, ITIF also suggested Congress encourage growth in the science, technology, engineering and math fields with grants and cash prizes for high school, college and university programs as well as investments in alternative learning. For example, the report suggests allowing federal aid for nontraditional education like massive open online courses and programs that offer alternative credentials to college degrees.

The federal government could validate alternative credentials by accepting them for federal jobs, and the Education Department could work with the private sector to accept them, too, the report said.

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