In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers noted that both the National Security Agency (NSA) and US Cyber Command are hampered in their ability to both recruit and retain talented civilian cyber security professionals. Rogers, who heads both, noted that the military positions within the organizations are being filled and personnel retained without issue. It is a civilian employee issue.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called for the end of the dual-hatted leadership and for the separation of the NSA and Cyber Command. The cybersecurity of the United States is, “not only a military issue,” said Clapper.

Cybersecurity Pay in the Government Sector

How do you retain very high-end, exquisite civilian talent for extended periods of time?” General Rogers asked.

He noted compensation was a key ingredient. Clapper echoed the need for better compensation but also noted working in the U.S. intelligence community should not be driven by money. But absent a flexible compensation package, the private sector will continue to be successful in luring away talented cybersecurity professionals.  

“I do think that consideration must be given to having more flexibility, more latitude on compensation for our high-end cyber specialists who are lured away by industry who are paying huge salaries,” said Clapper.

One can be sure the Senate, NSA and DNI will continue to focus on compensation and recruitment of cybersecurity warriors, and keep the priority present as a presidential transition begins.

A growing list of cyber adversaries

Their combined statement to the committee focused on cybersecurity challenges presented by hostile foreign adversaries. These adversaries include, Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, terrorist organizations and organized criminal organizations. The effect of the efforts directed at the United States has and will continue to affect:

  • Infrastructure
    • The Internet of Things is leveraged for other cyber activity (e.g. DDOS); vulnerabilities in medical and vehicular devices; and attacks on infrastructure
  • Commerce
    • Espionage against the defense industry resulting in the compromise of both commercial trade secrets and US military programs.
  • Diplomacy
    • The free flow of information online is at risk as nations, including the United States, find themselves in the cross hairs of covert actions designed to undermine trust and sow confusion with disinformation.
  • Cyber Warfare
    • 30 nations are developing cyber war capabilities. Their targets are critical infrastructure, information networks and military command and control.

The threat to the nation is very real. Adversaries are evolving their practice and doctrine. It will take the best cybersecurity professionals for the government to remain competitive. Military and intelligence leaders are looking to Congress to allow for the salaries necessary to attract it.

Related News

Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008). He is the founder of