In The Name of National Security
By LaShaune Littlejohn
Last week, the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021 (H.R. 3599) was passed by the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. Sponsored and co-sponsored by Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) respectively, the bill aims to bring more of cybersecurity’s top talent to the Federal government to help the government fight the ever-increasing number of sophisticated cybercrimes that have become increasingly more frequent. A version of the bill, introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), was passed unanimously by the Senate in 2019. The House is urging the Senate to display a similar show of support and pass H.R. 3599 as quickly as possible.
The bill seeks to address the government’s shortage of top cybersecurity talent by creating a personnel rotation program that would allow cybersecurity professionals in the private sector to take on cybersecurity roles within Federal agencies for a period of no fewer than 180 days and no more than 12 months (with a possible 60-day extension). With the increase in remote work, businesses have spent the last couple of years learning the hard lesson of needing to invest more in information technology and cyber security, with cybercrimes becoming more and more sophisticated and advancing as quickly as the next COVID-19 variant. But Federal agencies have been unable to secure and retain senior-level cyber and tech talent (or invest in the training and development of entry-level talent) well enough to have job opportunities as attractive to job seekers as the opportunities offered by tech conglomerates in Silicon Valley.
If the bill becomes law, Federal agencies would be required to identify roles that qualify for the program, focusing largely on jobs that are suited for such a rotation such as those that support multi-agency, integrated cyber missions. Participating professionals would be able to rotate to a federal vacancy approved for the Program. Upon completion of their rotation, professionals would be able to return to their original or a similar job. The program would allow cyber professionals to work within various government agencies, thus widening their professional network and giving them a wealth of knowledge and experience beyond that of their original roles. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has been tasked to implement an operation plan to outline the policies and procedures involved with the assignment of employees to rotational cyber workforce positions, while The Government Accountability Office (GAO) will be responsible for assessing the effectiveness of the program by addressing the extent of agency and employee participation.
Not trying to get excited over nothing, but if this gets to President Biden’s desk soon, it could be a gamechanger not just for the Federal government and the state of national security, but for cybersecurity professionals as well. Being able to work within the Federal government – for more than one agency, at that – would open up so many doors to tech professionals and allow the country to develop a larger pool of such professionals with senior-level experience in the industry.
By LaShaune R. Littlejohnhnnthe possibilities this could bring to the industry? Do you think the Senate will sign it through as it is, or will we see more revisions to this program that we’ve needed for way too long already? Share your thoughts i R. n the comments.