The National Security Council asked the private-sector led National Infrastructure Advisory Council to focus a critical-infrastructure workforce study on cybersecurity and to speed delivery of its recommendations.
A federal advisory committee is preparing a report that recommends the government find ways to incentivize owners of critical infrastructure to improve their cybersecurity workforce, including by denying them federal contracts.
“We also think federal procurement requirements are a really valuable tool,” said Jan Allman, chief executive officer of Fincantieri Marinette Marine Corporation and a member of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council. “So any private company bidding on federally funded projects has to meet certain requirements, whether that's for meeting job quality training, standards or encouraging local hiring, or partnering with service providers to ensure that workers have access to the training they need to advance their careers.”
Allman was briefing the Council Thursday on an interim report the group is preparing for the National Security Council which asked that its recommendations be expedited. The report is being readied as President Joe Biden has emphasized cybersecurity in his plan for American Jobs and Congress considers reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, which allows funding of federal workforce initiatives.
“Of course, we're happy to meet this accelerated delivery schedule because we recognize that the NIAC now has a major opportunity to help shape what could be one of the most important policy proposals for infrastructure in decades,” said NIAC Vice Chair Beverly Scott, noting the final report is now on track for July.
The White House specifically requested that the study include a focus on cybersecurity and Caitlin Durkovich, senior director of resilience and response on the National Security Council, said recent events, including the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, have underscored the importance of the NIAC’s effort.
“I know that the administration and the president and certainly myself value the NIAC and the incredible incredible expertise that you bring in tackling some of the biggest challenges that we have as it relates to our infrastructure ecosystem,” she said. “How we leverage your expertise to make sure that our historic investments in critical infrastructure accounts for security and resilience and what the world looks like both now [and] 20 to 30 years from now, given the life cycle of our infrastructure, is critical.”
Recommendations in the group’s interim report include requesting the White House Office of Management and Budget track interagency workforce efforts related to critical infrastructure, using existing federal executive authority to foster the development of national standards and incentivize quality training for essential jobs, and establishing a critical infrastructure workforce coordinating council, in the near term.
In the mid-term, the government should “launch a public awareness campaign to highlight the importance and opportunity of critical infrastructure jobs,” and in the long term, it should “build a ‘K-Grey’ system that connects education to career development and provides lifelong learning opportunities to all Americans,” according to the interim report.