As part of the federal government’s efforts to address cybersecurity needs in our age of state-sponsored hacking and other high-profile data breaches, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will soon undertake a Congressionally-mandated review of cybersecurity resources. In just two months, the Secretary of DHS will be required to conduct the first assessment of the Department’s cybersecurity workforce and evaluate its readiness and capacity to meet the agency’s cybersecurity mission. The assessment of the DHS workforce necessary to defend and protect against ongoing cyber threats will be an important component of a DHS mission to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. Part of the assessment requires DHS first to identify cybersecurity workforce vacancies, and by the end of the year to devise a well-conceived strategy to recruit cybersecurity professionals. More granular information on the primary work functions of each workforce position by cybersecurity category and specialty area also will be provided. The development of the comprehensive strategy and resulting federal recruitment efforts present opportunities for cybersecurity vendors and individual professionals to address skills gaps in the current federal workforce.

Workforce Evaluation

The DHS evaluation, due by mid-June, is a requirement of the Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act (CWAA), which was one of several federal cybersecurity laws that were enacted in December 2014. The assessment under the CWAA also is required to include information about the composition of the existing cybersecurity workforce in addition to known vacancies, including whether the position is performed by full-time employees, independent contractors, or employees from other federal agencies. To help ensure an accurate and comprehensive analysis applicable over the long term, DHS is required to conduct the analysis annually thereafter for three years.

Comprehensive Cybersecurity Workforce Strategy for the Future

Perhaps more significant, by mid-December 2015, DHS is required to have developed a “comprehensive workforce strategy to enhance the readiness, capacity, training, recruitment, and retention of the cybersecurity workforce of the Department,” a strategy that may be affected by other congressional action on the cyber-security front affecting implementation of government agency security programs and centralizing federal government cybersecurity management within the DHS. In the midst of widely publicized shortages of information security skills, a key component of the strategy will be the identification of any gaps in the current cybersecurity workforce and the plans to fill them, as well as any perceived obstacles in hiring or developing the workforce that DHS deems appropriate. The targeted employment goals are to be modified as necessary to achieve the comprehensive workforce strategy, and DHS will focus special attention on recruiting experienced professionals and members of disadvantaged and underserved communities, as well as qualified veterans and unemployed cybersecurity personnel. Five-year implementation plans and 10-year projections regarding of the DHS workforce also are mandated.

Additional information about the kinds of cybersecurity jobs for which DHS may recruit can be obtained through the National Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, which categorizes, organizes and defines cybersecurity work and reflects the contributions of approximately 20 federal departments and agencies. The Workforce Framework is the product of the National Initiative Cybersecurity Education (NICE), which operates at DHS’s direction and promotes the growth, strength and capability of the cybersecurity workforce. Together, NICE and the Workforce Framework can be valuable resources for cyber vendors and prospective employees seeking to:  (i) navigate the sophisticated challenges in preparing for cyber threats to government and private interests; and (ii) meet the workforce demands for cybersecurity expertise to counter those threats.