DHS Wants Industry to Help Improve Pay for Cyber Personnel

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By rolling out a “market-sensitive” pay structure and supporting more flexible career paths, the department hopes to make its cybersecurity jobs more appealing.

The Homeland Security Department wants to offer its cybersecurity personnel more competitive pay, and it needs help setting those rates.

The department recently began seeking vendors to support the Cybersecurity Workforce Strategic Compensation Program, an enterprisewide effort to bring salaries for the agency’s cyber positions more in line with those in the private sector. By offering employees more competitive pay, the initiative looks to address the shortage of cyber expertise plaguing Homeland Security and other federal agencies.

Salary caps, lengthy onboarding and rigid career ladders have historically made it hard for the government to recruit and retain cyber experts, but with digital threats on the rise, agencies are looking for ways to make cyber jobs more attractive. 

In a request for information published Tuesday, the department asked vendors to discuss how they would approach developing a new compensation structure and ensuring pay levels remain on par with those in industry. Interested teams must also include information on any IT systems they would use to support the program and their past experience with managing salary and workforce management.

The department plans to use the information to refine its vision for the program and narrow the final requirements for vendors, according to the RFI.

In the solicitation, officials said they ultimately intend to create a “market-sensitive” compensation system that relies more on individuals’ skills and capabilities as opposed to their tenure, the main determinant under the General Schedule system. The department also wants to promote more “dynamic careers” for their cyber personnel and allow for easier movement between Homeland Security components and other federal agencies, as well as private companies.

“To modernize the civil service for cybersecurity work, [the Homeland Security Department] has revisited some of the foundational theories and structures that underlie how the federal government has managed human capital for decades,” officials said. “[The department] is pursuing new methods for describing work, considering time/professional experience, evaluating applicants and employees, and managing career and salary progression.”

The solicitation comes as the department prepares to roll out a new system for building and managing its cybersecurity workforce. The Cyber Talent Management System, set to debut in early 2020, will do away with entire General Schedule system and give Homeland Security officials more flexibility in the jobs, salaries and benefits it can offer to cybersecurity personnel.

The department plans to hire some 150 employees using the new system next year, and if all goes well, officials may expand it to include more positions beyond cybersecurity.