The Federal Government is very open about its need for more cyber specialists in all its departments and agencies. Competition with the private sector for qualified applicants is intense and the government has a disadvantage. Until now, the pay scales and the benefit packages that the government can offer are not at all what candidates may be offered in Silicon Valley.

The Federal Government’s CIO, Tony Scott, told Politico in Dec. that he estimates that there are 10,000 openings across the entire government. The various agencies, however, are using new authority and new appropriations to try to fill these empty chairs.

Attracting Cyber Workers to DoD Careers

At the Department of Defense, the services are looking to add 6,200 cyber workers by 2018. These would come from active service troops and civilian contractors. They will also add 2,000 more from the National Guard and Reserves. To sweeten the pot, select troops can receive a $50,000 retention bonus. The Office of Personnel Management has, in addition, authorized U.S. Cyber Command to add 3,000 civilians with specialized cyber skills and pay them at top annual salaries – about $135,000 yearly.

Last month, the President signed a defense bill that speeds up the hiring process and it allows DoD to pay more competitive salaries to civilian cyber employees. In addition, the DoD can now, non-competitively, add some of its STEM student interns as employees.

The military recognizes that its culture may drive a number of otherwise qualified candidates away. The services see many of the most talented cyber experts as “non-conformists”, and they fall outside the norms of the military.

Company Reputation Critical to Cyber Recruitment

Perhaps the most cyber of Federal agencies is the NSA. Politico found that they are not having the difficulties that other agencies and departments are having in cyber recruitment. About 100,000 resumes flow into the NSA every year and just a small number are hired. A lot of that may boil down to agency reputation. The NSA is known for managing programs at the cutting edge – and for embracing the nonconformist culture of the IT industry.

Some departments lost ground in the last year. Veterans Affairs dropped 153 cyber employees, while Interior was down 96 and Agriculture down 93. “We’re not competing,” said Bruce Andrews, the deputy secretary of Commerce, despite the fact that his department added 23 more civilian cyber workers.

Max Stier, the president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, joined by Booz Allen, is calling for changes that would allow all Federal agencies and departments use the same authority that Homeland Security has to hire cyber experts with a less restrictive review process. They also advocate the use of an existing law that would allow the government to pay salaries in excess of civil service rates.

The 2015 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study laid out the growing shortage of cyber workers in the private sector. Everyone is looking for qualified employees who can address emerging cyber security threats and analyze growing mountains of data. The latest steps from the Federal Government are small but significant moves to level the playing field between public and private, at least as much as is possible.

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Charles Simmins brings thirty years of accounting and management experience to his coverage of the news. An upstate New Yorker, he is a freelance journalist, former volunteer firefighter and EMT, and is owned by a wife and four cats.