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DHS Secretary Discusses Cybersecurity Hiring With Advisory Council

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano met with the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s (HSAC) Task Force on CyberSkills this week, where they discussed the latest developments in improving the agency’s cybersecurity initiatives.

In July, Secretary Napolitano directed the HSAC to form the task force due to the increasing demand to fill staffing gaps, by seeking experts from the cybersecurity field across industry, academia and government.

DHS Task Force on CyberSkills“DHS is committed to working with our partners at universities and throughout the private sector to develop the next generation of cyber professionals to protect against evolving cyber threats,” said Secretary Napolitano in a statement. “I appreciate the Task Force’s hard work and dedication to helping the Department build a safe, secure, and resilient cyberspace.”

The Task Force on CyberSkills, co-chaired by Black Hat conference founder Jeff Moss and Alan Paller, conducted extensive interviews with experts in developing its recommendations to grow the advanced technical skills of the DHS cybersecurity workforce and expand the national pipeline of potential employees with these cybersecurity skills.

During the meeting on Tuesday, Secretary Napolitano thanked the Task Force for their help in identifying best practices for developing a national security workforce, and engaging with outside groups to recruit an experienced cyber workforce.

When it comes to finding the right people, and getting the proper skills in order, the task force listed eleven recommendations grouped under five objectives in their final report.

The five objectives listed by the DHS Task Force on CyberSkills are:

1. Ensure that the people given responsibility for mission-critical cybersecurity roles and tasks at DHS have demonstrated that they have high proficiency in those areas.

2. Help DHS employees develop and maintain advanced technical cybersecurity skills and render their working environment so supportive that qualified candidates will prefer to work at DHS.

3. Radically expand the pipeline of highly qualified candidates for technical mission-critical jobs through innovative partnerships with community colleges, universities, organizers of cyber competitions, and other federal agencies.

4. Focus the large majority of DHS’s near term efforts in cybersecurity hiring, training, and human capital development on ensuring that the Department builds a team of approximately 600 federal employees with mission-critical cybersecurity skills.

5. Focus the large majority of DHS’s near term efforts in cybersecurity hiring, training, and human capital development on ensuring that the Department builds a team of approximately 600 federal employees with mission-critical cybersecurity skills.

While the report highlights that many promising initiatives may already be underway, it concludes that "much more needs to be done."

"The Secretary recently said that cybersecurity is the most dynamic and threatening risk we face. Her vision, that one day in the future federal agencies and private sector entities will have the technical cybersecurity workforce needed to meet their mission responsibilities, can be achieved by implementing the recommendations in this report.”

The full report can be read here in PDF format. 

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.