Indianapolis - Circa August 2018: Logo And Seal Of The United States Department Of Homeland Security

DHS launches new effort to attract cybersecurity talent

The Homeland Security Department on Monday unveiled a new program that gives it more flexibility to recruit and retain cybersecurity personnel.

The Cyber Talent Management System is meant to help the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, the department’s digital security branch, fill vacancies and safeguard the U.S. against online threats like ransomware.

"As our nation continues to face an evolving threat landscape, we cannot rely only on traditional hiring tools to fill mission-critical vacancies," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement, adding it “fundamentally re-imagines how the department hires, develops, and retains top-tier and diverse cybersecurity talent.”

The effort comes in the wake of several major digital incidents, including the massive SolarWinds hack by Russia and ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure like the Colonial Pipeline. CISA, which was established in 2018 and saw its leadership and upper-ranks decimated during the Trump administration, has been stretched thin by responding or assisting with the various 

The new system, which has been in the making for roughly seven years, is intended to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that comes with the federal hiring process by shifting focus away from traditional benchmarks, such as longevity, and toward new aspects like technical skills. 

An interim rule for the program was issued on Monday. Once finalized, it will allow DHS to hire cybersecurity professionals at salaries of up to $255,800 — the same amount Vice President Kamala Harris gets paid — and, in certain circumstances, as much as $332,100 as part of a bid to compete with the more lucrative private sector.

The program will initially be aimed at filling vacancies at CISA and the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer. However, it will be used to help fill cybersecurity positions at several other DHS agencies starting next year.

Martin Matishak

Martin Matishak is a senior cybersecurity reporter for The Record. He spent the last five years at Politico, where he covered Congress, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community and was a driving force behind the publication's cybersecurity newsletter.

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