State of the Federal Cyber Workforce

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A 24-federal agency coalition issued a call to action, in September 2022, on the systemic changes necessary to close the government’s cyber talent shortage in a first-ever State of the Federal Cyber Workforce Report.    

The report released by the Federal Cyber Workforce Management and Coordinating Working Group details the chronic workforce challenges faced by federal agencies as they try to minimize the cyber workforce gap and secure critical tech talent despite a historically tight labor market. With more than 700,000 cyber jobs to fill nationwide and nearly 40,000 in the public sector as of April 2022, the report lays out 35 priority actions to overcome these barriers through a coordinated, interagency approach.  

 “Recruiting and retaining the most skilled individuals with high-demand cyber expertise is a top priority for both OIT and industry leaders alike,” Department of Veteran Affairs Chief Information Officer Kurt DelBene. “There is a growing need for a highly skilled technology workforce and talent pipeline to support widespread digital transformation throughout federal government.”  

The world’s rapid shift to remote work and cloud-based infrastructures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic further underscored the criticality of cyber talent in protecting a drastically expanded digital footprint from a 238% increase in cyber-attacks worldwide. The federal government’s own digital transformation and task of securing the nation’s digital and critical infrastructures such as data centers, networks, healthcare system, food supply, financial services, and energy sectors has led many of the Nation’s top leaders, including President Biden, to call for rapid action.   

Focused on the personnel required for Federal cyber modernization, the State of the Cyber Workforce Report sets forth a strategic action plan, outlining high-priority, federal-wide cyber workforce actions to reduce the talent pipeline gap, increase the quality and diversity of our cyber workforce, and prioritize the personal and professional needs of cyber professionals through a coordinated interagency approach. The Federal Working Group, led by VA, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and DoD has already launched multiple action teams to begin tackling identified challenges.

“While we have improved our ability to identify and develop the cyber workforce over the past three years, we still have work to do with regards to other high-tech skillsets,” said DoD Chief Information Officer John Sherman. “This must be a whole-of-nation effort.”  

The growing cyber talent shortage and aging Federal workforce puts significant pressure on federal agencies to join the race for talent by reenergizing and promoting itself as a premier place of employment with an imperative mission to counter cyber threats while meeting the demand of U.S. citizens for a more responsive, digital government.   

“The cyber threat landscape is getting more complex, dynamic and dangerous every day.  At the same time, we have a global shortage of cyber talent that affects every organization, including the federal government,” said CISA Chief Human Capital Officer Felicia A. Purifoy.  “Growing and strengthening our cybersecurity workforce is going to require new and innovative ways of thinking and expanding the talent pool by bringing people with diverse backgrounds into the workforce.  CISA will continue to engage with our partners in government, the private sector and academia to attract and retain the workforce we need to defend the nation against evolving cyber threats.”

 Over the last two years, the working group has launched a catalog of products, services, and tools such as the Cyber Career Pathways Tool and Roadmap to equip individuals with the resources they need to identify, build, and navigate a federal cyber career.  The Working Group is implementing the recommended actions within its latest report to improve mobility and skill portability, transform workforce reporting and data analytics, and position the federal government as a competitive employer for incoming and future cyber professionals.    

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About the Federal Cyber Workforce Management and Coordinating Work Group 

Established in 2019, the Working Group serves as an interagency coordinating body that develops best practices, tools, and resources to address shared challenges, enhance workforce management capabilities, and reduce siloes in the digital era. Sponsored by the Federal Chief Information Officer and led by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, the Working Group is comprised of 24 federal departments and agencies and consists of over 250+ workforce management professionals, human resource specialists, and cyber hiring managers, who are on the ground and supporting 90,000+ federal employees performing Information Technology (IT), cybersecurity, and cyber-related functions. To date, the Working Group has developed and released a catalog of NICE Workforce Framework for Cybersecurity (NICE Framework)-centric products, services, and tools such as the Cyber Career Pathways Tool and Roadmap to increase understanding and integration of the NICE Framework into existing workforce management practices in support of federal cyber workforce policies (e.g., Federal Cyber Workforce Assessment Act 2015).