NDAA Amendment Would Establish Veteran-Focused Cyber Training Program

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A provision included in House and Senate legislation authorizing Defense Department spending for fiscal year 2023 would allow veterans and military spouses to receive cyber training “at no cost.”

A proposed amendment to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act would establish a pilot program to provide veterans and military spouses with cybersecurity training, as part of an effort to address gaps in the nation’s cybersecurity workforce.

The bipartisan amendment was put forward by Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, in the Senate. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., introduced the amendment in the House, where it passed with more than 600 other amendments in a July vote. Both amendments are modeled on the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Expansion Act, legislation previously introduced in the Senate by Hassan and Cornyn, and in the House by Houlahan. 

A Senate Homeland Security Committee report on the legislation released on July 18 noted, in part, that “there is a national shortage of qualified cybersecurity personnel” which “represents a high risk to national security.”

While both the House and Senate NDAA amendments only reference the pilot program for veterans and military spouses, the previous bill also proposed “a cybersecurity registered apprenticeship program in the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

The goal of the cybersecurity pilot program is to provide veterans with professional training to enter the workforce after the end of their military service, as well as to address persistent gaps in the cyber workforce. The State of the Federal Cyber Workforce Report, released earlier this month by a federal working group, noted that there were “more than 700,000 cyber jobs to fill nationwide and nearly 40,000 in the public sector as of April 2022.”

In a statement from June 2021 announcing the introduction of the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Expansion Act, Hassan said the bill would “help address the workforce challenges in the veteran community by standing up a cyber-training program at the VA to help veterans secure good-paying, stable jobs.” 

“Cyber threats are evolving each day, and we must have a workforce prepared to respond,” Cornyn also added at the time. “By harnessing the experience of our veterans and creating more opportunities for hands-on learning, this legislation would help ensure we are ready to fend off cyberattacks from our adversaries.”

In a July 20 press release following House passage of the 2023 NDAA, Houlahan cited her inclusion of the amendment establishing a cybersecurity training program for veterans and military spouses in the package, saying that it would offer veterans “the cutting-edge workforce training they need to succeed in today’s economy.”

Both the House and Senate provisions stipulate that eligible veterans and military spouses be able to participate in the program “at no cost.” And the amendments outline that the cybersecurity training provided under the pilot “be evidence-based” and include coursework and training that “if applicable, qualifies for postsecondary credit toward an associate, baccalaureate or graduate degree at an institution of higher education.” 

It also requires that participants in the pilot be eligible for virtual learning opportunities, performance-based assessments and “federal work-based learning opportunities and programs (which may include registered apprenticeship programs).” Both the House and Senate provisions note that the authority to carry out the program would terminate five years after it is established. 

The House passed its version of the 2023 NDAA in July, and the Senate is expected to take up its version of the legislation when it reconvenes after the midterm elections. More than 900 amendments have been filed to the Senate bill.