In hopes of creating a coherent strategy for growing and sustaining the Federal cyber workforce, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission released a new white paper with recommendations on improving government pay flexibility and implementing more upskilling programs.

Leaders of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission target the “persistent and intractable problem” of building a strong cyber workforce within the government, which is says is caused “in large part due to a lack of coordination and leadership.” With over a dozen recommendations to solve cyber hiring and retention gaps, the commission wrote it hopes to turn the Federal government into a cyber workforce leader.

The commission breaks its recommendations into five elements of improving the cyber workforce: organize, recruit, develop, retain, and stimulate growth. Organizational recommendations include properly identifying and utilizing cyber-specific occupational classifications for more tailored workforce policies, and building a Federal cyber service that would provide clear and agile personnel management tools.

Under recruit, the commission calls for an expansion of the Office of Personnel Management, National Science Foundation, and Department of Homeland Security’s CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program. The program offers grants to university students pursuing careers in cybersecurity. The white paper also recommends building on the Centers of Academic Excellence and expediting the personnel security clearance process.

The development recommendations aim to create an “on-ramp” to entry-level Federal cybersecurity positions and encourage current employees to stay in public service through apprenticeships and upskilling opportunities. “The Federal government will be stronger if it draws from a broad array of educational backgrounds and creates opportunities for employees to gain knowledge and experience as they work,” commissioners wrote.

Similarly, retain recommendations call on the Federal government to create career pathways and rotational programs that provide innovative career development opportunities. Other initiatives like pay flexibility aim to align government pay with the private sector, and address systematic inequalities keeping some employees from career growth to retain Federal employees.

Looking ahead, the commission’s goals to stimulate growth focus on coordinated government efforts to improve the talent pool by promoting diversity, incentivizing research, and increasing the military cyber workforce.

The elements and recommendations are meant to be “mutually reinforcing and overlapping,” and the authors of the white paper urge government cyber leaders to consider the larger cyber ecosystem as they work to improve the workforce picture.

“As leaders implement plans to increase the pool of talent available, they must also consider the other side of the supply-and-demand equation for cybersecurity employees,” the paper states. “By addressing the vulnerability of the larger cyber ecosystem, cyber leaders can decrease demand for employees, thereby reducing the gap between available employees and unfilled cyber jobs.”

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.