DHS shifts gear towards improving federal cybersecurity talent with new system

cybersecurity talent

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) turned its focus on Monday towards improving federal cybersecurity talent, working more aggressively to recruit, develop, and retain top cybersecurity professionals.

The new Cybersecurity Talent Management System (CTMS) will enable DHS to fill mission-critical cybersecurity positions by screening applicants based on demonstrated competencies, competitively compensating employees, and reducing the time it takes to be hired into the Department. Employees hired through this system will join the new DHS Cybersecurity Service, the nation’s preeminent federal cybersecurity team working to protect U.S. critical infrastructure and the nation from cybersecurity threats, and increase nationwide resilience.

DHS will initially leverage CTMS to fill high-priority jobs at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer. Beginning in 2022, DHS Cybersecurity Service jobs will be available across several DHS agencies with a cybersecurity mission. Federal hiring practices need to meet mission and market demands in the dynamic field of cybersecurity.

“The DHS Cybersecurity Talent Management System fundamentally re-imagines how the Department hires, develops, and retains top-tier and diverse cybersecurity talent,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security, said in a media statement. “This new system will enable our Department to better compete for cybersecurity professionals and remain agile enough to meet the demands of our critical cybersecurity mission,” he added.

The CTMS tool will help the DHS overcome challenges related to recruiting, developing, and retaining top-tier cybersecurity talent. Applicants will need to complete customized applications based on their skills and professional interests, without unnecessary steps. They will also participate in competency-based assessments, including real-world simulations, to demonstrate their ability to perform cybersecurity-related work.

The DHS Cybersecurity Service employees will also receive competitive salaries based on their demonstrated skills and expertise. Salary increases and other incentives are driven by employees’ impact on the DHS cybersecurity mission. The employees will have access to regular training and professional development opportunities designed to increase career exposure and further refine specialized skills in alignment with their interests and career goals.

CTMS builds on the Department’s efforts to create a robust, diverse cybersecurity workforce and fill critical positions. Earlier this year, Secretary Mayorkas announced a cyber hiring initiative and established the Secretary’s Honors Program to recruit talented recent graduates.

All new DHS Cybersecurity Service employees start at career levels and salaries matching their experience and expertise. They have the opportunity to receive salary increases and bonuses based on their mission impact, and over time, some employees enhance their expertise to progress to higher career levels.

DHS Cybersecurity Service employees receive benefits designed to support their professional and personal lives. Benefits will include time off, sick leave, and paid holidays, family leave and paid parental leave, health, dental, vision, life, and long term care insurance, telework and flexible schedules, education and training, transportation subsidies, health and wellness programs, student loan repayment, and retirement accounts.

To be considered, potential candidates must be U.S. citizens or nationals, 18 years of age, and registered for the selective service in the case of males. They must also be able to undergo and complete a background investigation, able to submit to a drug test and receive a negative result, able to comply with ethics and standards of conduct requirements, including completing any applicable financial disclosure, in addition to complying with COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

In case a candidate completes the application process and receives a tentative DHS Cybersecurity Service job offer, applicable employment eligibility requirements, including those that the candidate must comply with throughout appointment at DHS, will be communicated in writing.

The Hill reported that a senior DHS official said ahead of the announcement that DHS currently has around 1,500 cybersecurity-related vacancies, of which around 1,000 would likely fit into CTMS. “It is our goal to hire 150 into our priority roles in 2022, eventually work those out with both CISA and CIOs, it’s going to be a range of roles from entry level to the expert level,” the official told reporters.

Throwing in an OT and ICS perspective, Daniel Wallance, associate partner at McKinsey & Company, said that given the already limited supply of cybersecurity talent, industrial organizations are looking towards recruiting and training OT experts in cybersecurity.

“Experts working at oil & gas, utility, manufacturing companies or at OEM OT providers have OT expertise but not necessarily OT cybersecurity expertise. Therefore cybersecurity organizations train these resources in cybersecurity thus creating new avenues of OT cybersecurity talent,” he told Industrial Cyber in September.