Learn to Hack on the Government's Dime

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 4061, the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, which is the first major cybersecurity legislation to pass the House within the past year. The bill provides increased guidance for the role of NIST and NSF, looks to promote education and awareness efforts, coordinate R&D in the cyber realm and seeks to build a cybersecurity workforce.

In looking to build a more skilled cybersecurity workforce, the bill, which has moved to the Senate, will provide $108.7 million over a five-year period for a scholarship program for cybersecurity. In return for the scholarship, students will be required to serve in the government for a period equal to their length of scholarship once they graduate.

One of the central issues for the federal government and private industry is hiring and retaining skilled cyber professionals.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Bob Elder recently told The New New Internet in an interview regarding cybersecurity at the Air Force, “our biggest challenge is that once we get them trained, they’re trained so well that they’re worth a lot of money on the outside, so then it becomes hard to keep them.  This poses a difficult challenge:  We can find people who have the right potential, and we train them, but it takes time to develop the experience to be really good in this business, and about the time our Airmen reach that point they become very attractive to the private sector.”

Similarly, Mark Orndorff, who heads the Information Assurance program at DISA, also is competing with the private sector for skilled cyber professionals.

When asked about attracting cyber professionals, Orndorff told The New New Internet, “That’s a great question and definitely a challenge that is facing us as we speak.  We are working this week to try to fill quite a number of vacancies and address the problem that you are talking about.”

However, DISA is already looking to take advantage of trying to get students interested in the field prior to graduate, providing training and job opportunities.

“We’re heavily dependent on the intern program and we work that in partnership with NSA where NSA has an active effort to offer up scholarships for college students with a commitment after graduation for a tour of service with the government.  We get a good number of interns coming out of that program and that’s been a huge benefit for us,” Orndorff said.

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