Legislation Introduced to Bolster Cyber Workforce

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The bipartisan HACKED Act offers funding and resources to close the critical gaps.

Lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation this week to bolster cybersecurity education and vitalize America’s workforce.

The Harvesting American Cybersecurity Knowledge through Education, or HACKED, Act introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., John Thune, R-S.D., and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., aims to enhance existing science education and cybersecurity programs within several federal agencies with the ultimate intent of boosting the nation’s cyber defenses across the commercial and federal sectors. 

“America is facing serious cyber threats every day in today’s increasingly connected world, yet there is a serious shortage of workers needed to confront this urgent challenge,” Cantwell said. “There are currently 300,000 vacancies in our cyber workforce nationwide.”

The government for years has been working to help close its own—and the entire country’s—substantial struggle to fill open cyber and IT roles. The new legislation expands ongoing efforts and specifically seeks to fortify current science- and cyber-focused programs within the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation, NASA, and Transportation Department. 

The bill also proposed new incentives to drive the recruitment of cybersecurity educators and offers up to $200,000 for financial assistance to a regional alliance or partnerships centered on cyber education. It also seeks to enhance partnerships between local employers and universities on cybersecurity education and workforce needs.

“This legislation would build upon the important work being done by universities across the nation–including in South Dakota–to prepare and sustain a strong, talented, and much-needed national cybersecurity workforce,” Thune said.

The HACKED Act would also establish a new working group within the Office of Science and Technology Policy to increase the coordination of federal workforce programs and improve agencies’ cybersecurity awareness guidelines. 

“Cybersecurity risks are constant in the growing digital world. It is critical that the United States stay ahead of malicious cyber activity with a workforce that can safeguard our innovation, research, and work environments,” the bill’s lead sponsor, Wicker, who also serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, said. “This legislation is an important first step to expand the cybersecurity workforce and provide tools to support necessary education and training.”

Not long after the announcement, advocates were quick to weigh in with their support. The Software Alliance declared its endorsement and said insiders look forward to collaborating with lawmakers on the critical issue. The Computing Technology Industry Association also expressed support, citing research it conducted that indicates that cybersecurity jobs are the third-fastest growing job category in the IT sector in 2019, and that there were almost half a million cyber job openings in 2018.

“As our world becomes more interconnected, and threats both foreign and domestic increase, the demand for trained cybersecurity workers grows each day,” insiders from CompTIA said. “This bill would help expand the cyber workforce pipeline and fill critical careers. The Senate should act soon to pass this commonsense bill.”