CIA and FBI officials said they are utilizing different recruiting strategies to tackle the talent dearth in the cyber workforce.

CIA and FBI officials said they are utilizing different recruiting strategies to tackle the talent dearth in the cyber workforce. Dimitri Otis / Getty Images

New Hiring Methods Help FBI and CIA Combat Cyber Talent Shortage

Officials at the intelligence and law enforcement agencies say they’re facing the national cyber talent shortage head-on, from implementing a new approach to hiring top cyber talent to new training programs and incentives.

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies like the CIA and FBI are “feeling the strain” when it comes to hiring the next generation of the cyber workforce – and attempting to leverage new talent acquisition initiatives to help bolster cybersecurity capabilities, officials told FCW. 

“We’re certainly feeling the strain in terms of being able to hire an appropriate cyber workforce for the challenges that we have,” said Cynthia Kaiser, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division, Thursday at FCW’s Cyber Summit in Washington, D.C. 

She added that inconsistent standards across the federal government for science, technology, engineering and mathematics hiring and incentives can cause "cascading or roundabout vacancies" among agencies that are simultaneously competing with the private sector to hire and retain top cybersecurity talent. 

Some agencies have launched workforce expansion and cultivation efforts to cope with the cyber talent shortage, including training programs to upskill current employees and new methods to onboard a diverse pool of candidates. 

The CIA transitioned from an open-application hiring model to an invitation-to-apply process this year, according to Cindy Susko, director of the agency’s talent acquisition office, allowing applicants to submit resumes expressing interest in up to four occupations. 

“Based on their knowledge, skills and abilities, we may reach out to them to see if it currently meets a need that we have,” said Susko at the cyber summit. “This allows us to retain information and reach out at a later date when we do have a need.” 

The Office of the National Cyber Director is currently developing a cyber workforce strategy to address the lack of adequate cyber education and training nationwide, particularly in underserved communities. 

The strategy will help agencies "communicate better" about ongoing challenges around the recruitment, training and career paths for the next generation of cyber talent, according to Karen Wetzel, manager of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 

Wetzel, who serves on the working group that has been developing the strategy, said at the summit that several improvements have already been implemented across the government, from new authorities to establish alternative cyber workforce classification pay systems to expanded flexibilities and incentives. 

"I think we're already seeing — even before the strategies come out — some things that are helping in that space," said Wetzel. 

The ONCD cyber workforce strategy is expected to be released later this summer, and follows the release of the agency’s national cyber strategy earlier this year. Experts previously told FCW that the strategy faces a number of implementation challenges, including a lack of funding and cyber talent.