The U.S. faces more threats to national security today than perhaps it ever has – and hiring and retaining the right people is critical to the government’s mission. That was a key takeaway from a day of panels and discussions at this year’s Intelligence & National Security Summit at National Harbor’s Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center. The Summit, hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) and AFCEA, gathers together intelligence leaders from across the government to discuss emerging issues in national security.

“The threat to U.S. tech and information is as profound – more profound today – than it’s ever been,” said Bill Stephens, director for counterintelligence at the newly created Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). Stephens spoke on a panel on supply chain risk management. While the government is working to defend its capabilities, Stephens was candid about the gravity of threats, and the U.S. position – “the gracious way to describe it is we’re not winning,” Stephens cautioned.

A critical issue is that while the U.S. operates under specific rules and approvals, its adversaries do not. Another factor for the U.S. is the gap in monetizing or putting value on risk. ‘How much would we pay to have prevented a loss in the first place?’ is a difficult figure to quantify, emphasized supply chain risk panelists.

The Value of People

Panelists and speakers continually emphasized one element as being the most critical to their mission – people. In his opening remarks General Joseph Votel, former SOCOM and CENTCOM commander, cited people as the greatest resource of the intelligence community. 

While much focus is on attracting people to government careers, supply chain risk management panelists emphasized it’s not attracting people to the mission that’s the problem.

The reality is, there are plenty of people who will be happy to spend years doing everything they can to secure the nation, emphasized Bob Kolasky, directorNational Risk Management Center, Department of Homeland Security.

Panelists reiterated a frequent mantra of government hiring managers – the need to make it easier for individuals to on and off board between government and private sector careers. The cultural elements of government work – mission impact and making a difference – are attractive to job seekers. Making it easier to onboard into a government career would deliver the diversity of talent that makes government stronger, and strengthens it to do better.

Education and training are also key, but panelists noted they’re not necessarily looking at someone with a four-year degree as the most qualified for the job. Expanding recruitment includes opening up more paths to a government career – and that makes for a stronger intelligence community.

“Cost schedule and performance are virtually worthless unless we invest in people,” said Katie ArringtonChief Information Security OfficerOffice of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.