DHS gets nearly 2,000 applications for new cyber cadre

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The goal is for DHS to onboard the first 150 feds into the system next year.

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The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity Talent Management System, a personnel and pay system characterized by DHS as a civil service pilot, is cranking into gear after coming online last month.

DHS has gotten over almost 2,000 applications for the DHS Cybersecurity Service, the cadre being supported by the new system, said Angela Bailey, chief human capital officer at DHS, during a meeting of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council on Tuesday.

Over 10,000 people have visited the website, and department leadership has been given a list of 30 people ready to be hired “within one week,” Bailey said.

When the system launched in November, DHS officials said that the agency had around 1,500 vacancies, 1,000 of which they estimated would fit into CTMS.

The goal is for DHS to onboard the first 150 feds into the new cadre in 2022. DHS officials said that the first hires would be into the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the DHS office of the CIO.

The system was years in the making after being authorized in 2014 legislation.

Bailey discussed the thinking behind that process and the end product during the meeting, saying that it shows that “it is possible to reform the civil service, and to do it right, and to adhere to the merit system principles and to make sure that it’s as fair as you possibly can.”

The last major civil service reform legislation for the federal government was in the 1970s.

“Our current federal hiring practices were designed for predictable work. They were meant to emphasize pre-defined positions and longevity in government service and a lack of agility to adapt to the mission and market demands,” she said.

Bailey said that DHS had to think beyond that system to create something that will last in a constantly shifting cybersecurity environment.

When creating the new system, DHS officials focused on new, custom hiring assessments that include work simulations to test for skills, as well as a new classification system. That system was designed to be “nimble” and “to describe the work to accomplish the mission and still have the ability to continually update, refine and refresh based on the changes,” Bailey said.

CTMS also includes an alternative compensation scheme meant to make DHS more market competitive.

Recently, Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja said that that type of system can make it difficult for other agencies to compete for talent. OPM is focused on making sure agencies know about the tools they have already, like critical pay rates and recruitment and retention bonuses, she said.

Still, Bailey said that reworking of the fundamentals by DHS has been critical.

“We can’t recruit the cybersecurity talent our mission requires by simply eliminating a step in the hiring process or just posting things and praying that people would find them,” she said. “So we revisited the foundation theories and structures that the federal government has used to manage people for decades.”