Bennet, Portman Introduce Bill to Strengthen Federal Cybersecurity Workforce

Homeland Security Committee Passes Important First Step

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) today introduced a bipartisan bill to strengthen the federal cybersecurity workforce with a uniform classification system that will help agencies identify and address personnel shortages. This morning, Portman successfully secured a narrower version of the bill as an amendment during the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee’s consideration of the Department of Homeland Security Workforce Recruitment and Retention Act.

“It’s crucial that we have a clear idea of where federal agencies have the appropriate cybersecurity personnel and where we need improvement,” Bennet said. “This bill will provide a uniform framework so that we can make direct comparisons between agencies. Once we have a clear picture of our federal cybersecurity workforce, we can appropriately recruit, train, and retain well-qualified people for these jobs.”

“The federal government is responsible for securing a vast array of sensitive information and supporting the protection of our critical infrastructure,” Portman said. “These important missions demand world-class, highly-trained cybersecurity employees in the right places in the federal workforce. This legislation is an important first step to accomplishing that goal.”

Over the past several decades, agencies across the federal government have responded to the increasing threats to federal IT systems and infrastructure by hiring personnel that fill each agency’s individual needs. As cybersecurity needs have grown across the government, it has become increasingly clear that there is a need for a uniform system to better educate, recruit, train, develop, and retain a highly-qualified workforce. In 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on the significant challenges facing federal agencies to determine the size and composition of their cybersecurity workforce because of variations in how the work is defined.

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) together launched the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), which is working to uniformly classify cybersecurity job functions. This new framework will help agencies assess their current workforce to identify skill shortages, and provide a comprehensive look at the cybersecurity workforce across the entire federal government.

The Bennet-Portman bill will help move the initiative forward by defining specific tasks, milestones, and timelines for agencies to follow, and directing agencies to assess where their cybersecurity workforces are weakest. The bipartisan proposal will help ensure that the necessary federal departments and agencies are meeting key deadlines and reporting to Congress on time.

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