Union Supports Revised Civilian Cyber Reserve Program 


But the American Federation of Government Employees is still adamantly against the creation of a civilian National Digital Reserve Corps.

Rep. James Panetta, D-Calif., has made significant changes to a cybersecurity workforce proposal he hopes to attach to the National Defense Authorization Act and gained the backing of a major federal workers’ union.  

The revised proposal is one of 860 amendments before the House Rules Committee, which must determine their suitability for consideration when the defense authorization bill—passed out of committee Sep. 2—comes to a vote on the chamber floor. The American Federation of Government Employees opposed the original measure over concerns it would demoralize the permanent cybersecurity workforce at U.S. Cyber Command and create conflicts of interest by allowing private-sector workers to serve in short-term stints without public disclosure requirements.

“As a result of [Panetta’s office] having made crucial substantive revisions to their amendment, we withdraw our objections to their amendment and endorse it once their revisions are made,” the union wrote in a Sep. 18 letter updating their position.

Panetta’s amendment would now require those appointed as reservists to file financial disclosures using form 278 through the Office of Government Ethics. The revised provision also “expressly requires Office of Personnel Management approval for any deviations from ... the merit system,” under title 5 of U.S. Code and institutes a two-year service requirement, according to the letter.   

In contrast, the union’s updated letter emphasized its opposition to Amendment 665, proposed by Rep. Tony Gonzalez, R-Texas, which would create a National Digital Service Corps run out of the General Services Administration. GSA would recruit reservists for the corps under a three-year commitment but they would only be required to be “active reservists” for 30 days out of each year. GSA would receive and then assign their appointees to various agencies. 

“The assignments would likely be of more benefit to the private sector employers of these faux ‘reservists’ and to the reservists themselves than to the government agencies. This is because of the short duration of the assignments,” it reads. “There is almost no real benefit to the agency.”

Another key difference between the workforce provisions is that Panetta’s revised proposal would give Cyber Command control over the scope of its temporary reserve force over a limited pilot period. Gonzalez’s amendment would charge GSA with ensuring duties for a permanent rotation of temporary workers without requiring proper input from the agencies themselves based on mission demands, according to the letter.

“To presuppose as a matter of statutory mandate that there will be a steady and growing workload for Digital workforces absent detailed analysis from Agencies themselves is a recipe for fraud, waste and abuse,” the union wrote. “Amendment 665 would create a costly boondoggle and be no more than an opportunity for private interests to obtain inside information from the government and train its workforce through access to governmental programs without having to compete for a contract to work on those programs.”