DHS seeks cyber fellows

Secretarial Honors Program focuses on tech.

Napolitano said those changes to recruitment, hiring and pay can only be made by Congress.

The Homeland Security Department has created a new fellowship program designed to attract recent college graduates into cybersecurity careers.

Federal News Radio reported that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday during a discussion sponsored by Washington Post Live that the new Secretarial Honors Program will hire about 50 new workers, including many in the cybersecurity area. DHS began accepting applications on Oct. 24 across six areas, including IT, policy, management and cybersecurity, Napolitano said.

Those selected for the program will be offered several incentives, including department rotations, mentorships, focused on-the-job training and inclusion in various professional development programs. Each fellowship will last one to two years, after which participants may have the opportunity to convert to permanent positions at DHS.

Meanwhile, Napolitano also emphasized that while DHS has increased its cyber workforce by 600 percent over the last few years, the department still needs to move much faster on hiring cyber professionals if it is expected to effectively deal with an ever-increasing cyber threat.

Napolitano said DHS needs new authorities to hire more quickly and be more competitive with the private sector, an issue that is one of the most important -- but often overlooked -- parts of the Senate’s comprehensive cybersecurity bill.

Legislation sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., would allow DHS to receive the same hiring authorities for cybersecurity jobs that the National Security Agency uses to recruit. The bill also would authorize the DHS secretary to establish positions in the excepted service, make direct appointments, set rates of basic pay and provide additional benefits and compensation for cybersecurity hires.