The Department of Homeland Security is following through on recommendations to hire at least 600 cybersecurity experts, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.
Speaking at a Washington Post cybersecurity forum, Napolitano said the department is looking to hire cyber experts, analysts, IT specialists and people who are familiar with coding.
In June, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano directed a newly formed CyberSkills task force to develop recommendations for growing DHS’s cyber workforce and expanding the pipeline of cyber talent nationwide, which includes hiring at least 600 cyber professionals.
Napolitano said DHS has increased its workforce by 600 percent over the last few years, and she praised President Obama’s budgetary backing of the department’s cybersecurity efforts.
However, similiar efforts have been underway for the past few years to hire cyber professionals, James Lewis, senior fellow and program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said on a separate panel. “So, what’s going on?”
One issue, the report identified, is that DHS has not properly identified the skills needed to defend against threats, making it difficult to hire people with those skills. To keep pace with the growing threat, DHS has relied heavily on contractors, “leaving fewer of these sought-after positions open to federal employees,” the report said.
“We’ve probably gone from about five miles an hour to 85 miles an hour at DHS in the last three or so years,” Napolitano said. “We need to be at 120 miles an hour, and I would say that across the federal government.”
Napolitano wouldn’t discuss the starting salaries of DHS cyber experts but joked that there are not signing bonuses.
Overall, she said the government needs to improve real-time information sharing with the private sector and there needs to be better widespread adoption of cybersecurity best practices for critical infrastructure. She said most sectors have adopted adequate cyber practices, but in an interconnected world if there is one weak link everyone is affected.