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DOD: Cyber Workforce is Our Generation Space Race

CIO John Sherman highlighted a new upcoming cybersecurity workforce strategy to help its tech talent problem.

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image of Defense Department CIO John Sherman at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, D.C., Sep. 8, 2022
Defense Department CIO John Sherman at the Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, D.C., Sep. 8, 2022. Photo Credit: Billington

As the demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to overcome supply, federal agencies are introducing new programs to help shorten that labor gap.

At the Defense Department, this will entail a new strategy that CIO John Sherman introduced during the Billington Cybersecurity Summit in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

“We have a cybersecurity workforce strategy coming out probably within the next 60 days,” Sherman said. “We need a dedicated workforce strategy … looking not only at cyber, but broader STEM efforts, and what we’re doing across the enterprise era. So, we have a strategy specifically on this as we look to diversify the workforce … this really is our generation space race.”

As DOD continues to accelerate its workforce development, DOD Principal Director of Resources and Analysis Mark Gorak said that the agency is focusing on two key components: attraction and training. In addition to incentivizing the younger generation to join the federal workforce, Gorak said that there must be continuous training to prepare cybersecurity experts for the evolving threat landscape.

DOD will be targeting education programs for middle school and below to increase awareness of cybersecurity job opportunities. The agency is also looking to expand entry-level positions, tiered positions and internships.

“The desire is out there. We have to come together as a community to be able to inspire these children to want to serve in this kind of capacity,” Gorak said.

DOD has also established the Cyber Workforce Framework, which is a standardized workforce framework that DOD cybersecurity uses to categorize the full spectrum of cyber workforce roles. Gorak noted that DOD will expand the program across the agency and use the framework to guide pay and retention efforts.

The government’s cybersecurity advisory agency CISA is also working on efforts to introduce the cybersecurity field early on among the nation’s youths. This entails partnering with organizations like to create free K-12 curricula for schools, said CISA Chief of Staff Kiersten Todt. CISA is focused on accessibility and diversity in its outreach strategy.

“We have not truly created diversity of thinking, skills, aptitudes and expertise the way that we need to in this space. This space is all about innovation, and innovation is about thinking about problems differently,” Todt said.

CISA has faced challenges with resources as it continues to expand its workforce incentives and programs, which has made it difficult for the agency to remain competitive with industry. CISA is focusing on building out an integrated agency and investing in culture change to create an “organization that retains individuals because they’re invested in the mission.”

“What we do have in federal government is the mission. … What we don’t have are really the resources,” Todt said. “It is this continuum in this ecosystem, all of which needs the support and really the surge capacity of innovative thinking in order to execute to build out this workforce more effectively.”

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