Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., introduced a pair of bills this week that would create civilian cyber reserve pilot programs in both the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Homeland Security (DHS).

The bipartisan legislation introduced on March 21 would allow those agencies to recruit civilian cybersecurity personnel to serve in reserve capacities “at times of greatest need” – for example, if the United States needs to respond to malicious cyber activity.

The Civilian Cybersecurity Reserve Act, a legislative package of two bills, aims to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity workforce and support the Federal response to cyber threats through a Civilian Cybersecurity Reserve pilot program.

According to the senators, the program would be run within DoD and DHS, and would recruit qualified civilian cybersecurity personnel to serve in reserve capacities to “ensure the U.S. government has the talent needed to defeat, deter, or respond to malicious cyber activity.”

“As the cyber domain continues to expand in size and complexity, so should our cyber workforce,” Sen. Blackburn said in a statement. “By creating a reserve corps similar to our National Guard or Army Reserve, we can ensure the U.S. has qualified, capable, and service-oriented American talent that is necessary to address cyber vulnerabilities and keep our nation secure.”

Participation in the programs would be voluntary, by invitation only, and would not include Selected Reserve military members, the senators offices said.

The legislation package comes amid continued concerns over a growing gap in the cyber workforce. The Government Accountability Office in January said the Federal government should work to address the shortage, calling it a risk to national security.

“Cybersecurity threats targeting the United States continue to grow in scale and scope, demonstrating the urgent need for robust civilian cyber reserves capable of addressing these threats and protecting our nation,” Sen. Rosen said. “Our bipartisan legislation will help ensure the U.S. government can leverage existing cybersecurity talent from the private sector to help our nation deter and swiftly respond to cyberattacks.”

The bills match with recommendations from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission and the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service reports that call to establish a civilian cyber reserve corp.

The same legislation, introduced by Rosen with the support of Blackburn, passed the Senate during the lame-duck session last December, but never received a vote in the House before the end of the 117th Congress.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.