Trump Signs Executive Order to Boost Federal Cyber Workforce

President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump Evan Vucci/AP

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Initiatives include cyber aptitude assessments for agency insiders and a President’s Cup cybersecurity competition.

The White House launched its latest effort to bolster the government’s cybersecurity workforce.

President Trump issued an executive order Thursday that introduces new initiatives and expands existing national efforts aimed to “grow and strengthen” America’s cyber workforce. The programs laid out in the order will help better standardize cross-government language around cybersecurity, incentivize engagement from academia and federal agencies, and accelerate learning to address the nation’s urgent need to fill the cyber workforce gap.

“More than 300,000 cybersecurity job vacancies exist in the United States today,” President Trump said in a statement. “They must be filled to protect our critical infrastructure, national defense, and the American way of life.”

Senior administration officials noted that the order begins to address the challenge of ensuring that cybersecurity professionals have mobility into and outside of federal government and industry.

"United States Government policy must facilitate the seamless movement of cybersecurity practitioners between the public and private sectors, maximizing the contributions made by their diverse skills, experiences, and talents to our Nation," the order said.

The administration is also creating a federal rotational program in which feds can expand their expertise through temporary cyber-related assignments within other agencies, in hopes that new exposure will increase skills and encourage interagency knowledge transfers. The program mirrors a bipartisan bill that the Senate passed this week, which enables some cyber professionals to rotate across various agencies.

The order establishes a “President’s Cup” cybersecurity competition that will challenge and reward the government’s top cyber personnel. The new competition is still in its planning process, officials said, but it’s being modeled off of other national collegiate cyber contests.

Officials said the order will also help agencies identify and implement aptitude assessments that will help re-skill employees who exude potential.

The order will also introduce new awards programs that will recognize government personnel who have made significant contributions to cybersecurity or cyber operations. It will also establish the Presidential Cybersecurity Education Awards to celebrate elementary and secondary school educators teaching cybersecurity-related content.

In an effort to get government insiders on the same page around cyber practices and language, the order also encourages the widespread adoption of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, or NICE framework, which serves as a reference for identifying, recruiting, developing, and retaining cybersecurity talent.

Officials also said they hope that diversification within the cyber workforce will become a “natural byproduct” of this effort and that they also hope to increase pay scales to better meet the market demand for high-skilled cyber workers.

“America built the internet and shared it with the world; now we will do our part to secure and preserve cyberspace for future generations,” the president said.