Senators propose bill to help tackle cybersecurity workforce shortage

Senators propose bill to help tackle cybersecurity workforce shortage
© Greg Nash

Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanProgressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Democratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races Warnock raises .5 million in third quarter MORE (D-N.H.) and John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Texas) on Friday introduced legislation meant to tackle parts of the government’s cyber workforce shortage.

The Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Expansion Act would establish a cybersecurity apprenticeship program at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), along with create a program at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide veterans with cybersecurity training.

The bill was introduced after months of escalating cyberattacks aimed at critical U.S. organizations.

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The SolarWinds hack, discovered in December, allowed Russian government-backed hackers to compromise nine federal agencies and 100 private sector groups for most of 2020, while new vulnerabilities announced in March in Microsoft’s Exchange Server application potentially compromised thousands more groups.

Ransomware attacks have also become an increasing threats, with both Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS USA among the more high-profile victims of ransomware in recent months.

Hassan pointed to the escalating attacks on Friday in stressing that “our national cybersecurity infrastructure is woefully lacking.”

“In order to bolster our cyber defenses and protect our critical infrastructure, we need to increase the number of cybersecurity professionals in the federal government,” Hassan said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill will also help address the workforce challenges in the veteran community by standing up a cyber-training program at the VA to help veterans secure good-paying, stable jobs, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation.”

Cornyn said in a separate statement that “cyber threats are evolving each day, and we must have a workforce prepared to respond.”

“By harnessing the experience of our veterans and creating more opportunities for hands-on learning, this legislation would help ensure we are ready to fend off cyberattacks from our adversaries,” he said.

The legislation is not the first to take aim at addressing the cyber workforce shortage in an effort to confront growing threats.

Another bipartisan bill introduced in both the House and Senate this year would establish a program to allow cybersecurity professionals to rotate through multiple federal agencies and enhance their expertise. While the bill was previously passed by the Senate in 2019, it has not yet been considered this year by either chamber of Congress. 

Congress is also currently considering multiple bills that could help in pushing back against both foreign governments and cyber criminals carrying out attacks against U.S. critical infrastructure.