The U.S. is facing a cyber war. Foreign powers, criminal groups, hackers, and terrorist organizations have launched cyber attacks on the White House, Pentagon, State Department, and New York Stock Exchange; stolen data from the Pentagon’s fighter aircraft; and hacked into the nation’s electrical grid. There were millions of attempts to penetrate defense digital networks in 2008. In 2009, the General Accountability Office reported weaknesses in the capabilities of 23 of 24 federal agencies to detect or prevent cyber attacks.
President Obama declared cybersecurity to be one of the nation’s most serious economic and security challenges. The federal government needs a coordinated, sustained effort to build the capability and caliber of the government’s cybersecurity workforce to combat these threats and ensure the nation’s safety.
Booz Allen Hamilton and the Partnership for Public Service examined the state of the federal cybersecurity workforce by interviewing federal experts, examining public testimony and reports, holding focus groups, and surveying chief information officers (CIOs), chief information security officers (CISOs), and human resource professionals at 18 federal agencies. Results of this research were published in the study, “Cyber In-Security: Strengthening the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce.”
The study found that the federal cybersecurity workforce is significantly challenged by serious shortages of highly skilled cybersecurity specialists and an absence of coordinated leadership on cybersecurity workforce issues. The study examines current agency approaches to finding, hiring, and retaining cybersecurity talent; discusses concerns faced by hiring and information security managers; highlights their successes; and recommends changes.
The analysis revealed four key challenges that inhibit the strength of our federal cybersecurity workforce:
But some strategies to hire top IT talent have been successful. Based on these best practices, “Cyber In-Security” advises agencies on immediate approaches to attract and retain cybersecurity talent, and provides recommendations for the White House, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Congress to address the more systemic problems undermining the health of our federal cybersecurity workforce, including:
Failure to address the government’s critical cybersecurity workforce needs could result in increased vulnerability of federal and civilian systems and their data. Bringing about needed cybersecurity workforce requirements will not be easy, but it must be a national priority.
Principal Jeffrey Akin led the Booz Allen team that helped author this study.
Learn more about Booz Allen's cybersecurity capabilities or the firm's human capital capabilities.
study posted July 22, 2009