House IT chair eyes 'cyber national guard’ as next legislative push

House IT chair eyes 'cyber national guard’ as next legislative push
© Greg Nash

The GOP chairman of the House's information technology subcommittee is looking to bring new leadership to the creation of a “cyber national guard” that would help recruit stronger talent to fill cybersecurity roles in the federal government.

Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdOvernight Cybersecurity: Kushner was contacted about WikiLeaks before election | Tech experts blast Trump's 'extreme vetting' plan | Senate passes defense bill with measure to modernize feds' IT Overnight Cybersecurity: WH details rules for handling hacking tools | UK claims Russia behind widespread hacks | Bill to save cyber diplomacy office advances Future of DACA up in the air as deadline looms MORE (R-Texas) said the program would allow industry professionals to bring innovative ideas back into the federal government without the government having to keep up with the salaries available in the technology community.

“We have to stop thinking that the federal government is going to be able to be competitive when it comes to salaries with the private sector,” Hurd said Wednesday at a cybersecurity conference hosted by Fedscoop and software company VMware. “It’s not going to happen.”

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The congressman said that the issue will be his next "big initiative" following his push for a bill to modernize the federal government’s IT infrastructure. That bill passed the House in a vote Wednesday afternoon.

The "cyber national guard" would offer federal scholarships for students pursuing cybersecurity-related degrees who would then work in civilian federal agencies, like the Departments of Commerce or Homeland Security, for the same duration as their schooling. The individual would then move on to the private sector, but would have to be “loaned back” into the government for an established amount of time.

“It’s not a new idea; it’s been out there for some time,” Hurd said. “This is … going to improve the cross-pollination of ideas from the private sector and the public sector.”

Others like Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) have advocated for a similar concept. Hurd and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), his counterpart on the House information technology subcommittee, conducted a field hearing on the topic in Chicago, the congressman said Wednesday.

Hurd said that the effort would be his next priority following the passage of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, which would create two streams of funding to incentivize agencies to scrap their legacy systems in favor of newer, more secure information technology. The legislation has bipartisan backing in the House and Senate, as well as support from President Trump's administration, and is moving swiftly through Congress. 

One of the impediments to following through on such an initiative, according to Hurd, is the lack of a standard job description of skill sets needed for IT jobs within the federal government. Hurd proposed looking to the private sector to formulate these descriptions, which would make it easier to match industry positions with those in government. 

Hurd also stressed the importance of improving cybersecurity information sharing with the private sector, an effort that is currently led by the Department of Homeland Security.

“This is actually a bipartisan issue. No one has thrown an elbow at me yet on this topic,” Hurd said of cybersecurity. “It was this way in the past administration, it’s this way in the current administration, and we’re going to keep it this way.”