Democrats press OPM on cyber hiring

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A trio of Democratic lawmakers is looking for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to streamline its hiring process for cyber-related roles and improve training for those positions.

Members of the New Democrat Coalition’s Cybersecurity Task Force on Thursday sent a letter to the OPM acting director, encouraging the office to explore relaxing its hiring requirements for cybersecurity roles and offer outside resources for cyber training. 

{mosads}Experts and officials have repeatedly stressed the challenge faced by the federal government in hiring and retaining qualified information security personnel. 

OPM, in particular, has been scrutinized over its cyber defenses in the wake of a massive data breach revealed in 2015 in which the personal information of more than 20 million individuals was compromised. 

“Today, our country faces unprecedented cybersecurity challenges, yet the federal government struggles to recruit and retain qualified cyber professionals,” Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Derek Kilmer (Wash.) and Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), the leaders of the Democratic cyber task force, wrote to Kathleen McGettigan. 

The lawmakers floated the possibility of OPM offering industry-recognized certification testing to employees filling cyber-related roles. They wrote that agencies don’t offer the benefit because it is not explicitly authorized under U.S. code outlining training expenses, even though they are allowed to offer nongovernment resources to employees for this purpose. 

“Offering industry-recognized certification testing would be a valuable tool for agencies to recruit and retain highly-qualified cyber professionals,” the Democrats wrote. “Is there anything explicitly preventing the use of these tests? If nothing is preventing their use, what action would be best to encourage this?” 

Kilmer and his colleagues also pressed the agency on its educational requirements for cyber-related jobs, suggesting that the agency consider relaxing its requirements in job postings for four-year degrees.   

“For many of these jobs, a two-year degree or other non-traditional education paths, such as industry-recognized certification testing, can sufficiently prepare workers, especially in combination with high-value experience,” the lawmakers wrote.

“We encourage OPM to explore ways to adjust job requirements and streamline the hiring process for federal cybersecurity jobs, including looking to the private sector for ideas.” 

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