Cyber Workforce Bill Clears Senate

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., at a ceremony honoring Aretha Franklin, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, in Detroit. Peters authored the  Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., at a ceremony honoring Aretha Franklin, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, in Detroit. Peters authored the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The bill aims at helping federal offices recruit top cybersecurity talent amid digital threats.

A bill that would allocate more government resources to strengthen the federal cybersecurity workforce advanced through the Senate on Wednesday.

The Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021, introduced back in April by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., would create a rotational cyber workforce development program across several government agencies. 

The legislation comes as the federal government is working to strengthen its digital defense systems following large scale cyberattacks on various American corporations. It was passed unanimously without amendment.

“Cyberattacks pose a significant threat to our nation and are only becoming more sophisticated and frequent. To fight back against this threat, protect American networks, and safeguard personal information—the federal government must have a highly skilled cyber workforce,” Peters said in a press statement. “This commonsense legislation will help provide federal cybersecurity professionals with the tools and skills to deter foreign adversaries and criminal organizations from breaching our nation’s information technology systems and disrupting the lives and livelihoods of Americans.”

In addition to helping develop highly-skilled cybersecurity professionals for the public workforce, the bill would also require the Office of Personnel Management to develop a corresponding Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program plan that lays out the policies and operations for employees in the bill’s rotational program.

Employees eligible for the program per the bill’s text work within information technology, cybersecurity, or “other cyber-related functions” pursuant to the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act of 2015.

The main objective of the program is to help government cybersecurity employees gain experience outside of a single position within a single public office by rotating them through different cyber positions in different government departments. This feature is designed to help government jobs compete with lucrative private sector positions to better attract and retain top talent. 

It also instructs the Government Accountability Office to issue reviews that gauge the program’s efficacy, specifically measuring which government agencies have participated and the quality of employee experiences in the program.

Cosponsors include Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and John Hoeven, R-N.D.

“Our legislation will help retain our existing cyber-workforce while also boosting collaboration between agencies to ensure our nation is better equipped to deal with threats,” said Hoeven, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Committee. “Given the increase in cyber threats and the growing complexity of these attacks, it’s vital our federal workforce has the knowledge and skills to fight back.”

The bill’s companion in the House of Representatives, introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., was passed in the House in late September in a 410-15 vote. 

“If we want to continue the era of excellence in American innovation, we need to make a bold investment in our cyber workforce,” Khanna said in May. “ This dynamic rotational program will give our cyber professionals the wide-ranging experience they need to defend us from growing threats abroad.”