The FBI is talking about cyber hiring challenges again. They have hopes of hiring 2,000 new cyber professionals this year. If they have the funds. If they can attract qualified candidates. If they can get existing law changed.
Joseph Demarest, assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division, testified before a House subcommittee that they are developing “creative” staffing programs and engaging in “collaborative partnerships” with private industry.
At a May 22 event, James Trainor, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division, talked about the creation of a tuition reimbursement program for cyber recruits, a type of ROTC program modeled on one that the NSA operates. The FBI is looking to open its visiting scientist program to cybersecurity specialists, bringing them in for a one year residency. Congress will need to act to implement a proposal that would allow FBI employees to take a one year sabbatical in the private sector, and Trainor promoted that idea in his talk.
The FBI is not one of the “cool kids” in cyber security and investigation. The NSA, the CIA, the DIA and probably some other “As” all offer challenging roles in intelligence gathering and analysis, cyber warfare and other activities that fall under the Top Secret umbrella. The FBI, despite its puffery, has its cyber specialists tracing wire transfers by drug cartels and analyzing banking records of Mafia dons.
cybersecurity salary remains a sticking point
Money is always going to be the main issue. No government agency can offer a qualified cyber professional the salary that a private firm can. The FBI has talked in the past about appeals to patriotism, as well as recognizing that its people are not going to make the FBI a career.
The culture of the FBI is another barrier. FBI Director James Comey is quoted by the Wall Street Journal as stating “I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cybercriminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview .” I will not defend “smoking weed” but the remark points out the Director’s perception of the people working in his cyber division. A clash of cultures.
The opportunities are there for cybersecurity professionals. If you go in with your eyes wide open. You will not be hacking President Putin’s emails, and your salary will fall behind the private sector. But if you have a passion for law enforcement and cyber skills, the FBI may offer the ideal career.