The Biden administration on Monday announced it was establishing a program to recruit and train people to serve in digital positions within the federal government and address issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and cybersecurity concerns.
The U.S. Digital Corps will launch later this year as a two-year fellowship for 30 initial participants. Its goal is to recruit people already working in technology fields such as cybersecurity and data science to work for the federal government.
The program will allow participants to work at agencies during the two years, with initial host agencies including the General Services Administration (GSA), the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The agencies are aiming to prioritize diversity in selecting participants, committing to build a group that is representative of the larger nation in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity.
“One of my priorities is building a pipeline of diverse talent to GSA and recruiting the next generation of public servants,” GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said in a statement Monday. “The Digital Corps fellowship offers technologists just starting out in their career the opportunity to work on some of the most pressing challenges that we face and develop innovative solutions that make government work better for the American people.”
The program was established as part of a collaboration between the GSA, the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
“Technology enables mission delivery across government,” Federal Chief Information Officer Clare Martorana said in a statement Monday. “To provide best-in-class service delivery, agencies must have the right combination of workforce talent in place as their existing personnel accelerate towards retirement.”
A key goal of the fellowship program is to recruit professionals to work on a wide array of government priorities that require technological expertise, including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery and ongoing major cybersecurity incidents.
“Investing in our workforce is key to assisting agencies in delivering on priorities like COVID-19 response, climate, racial equity, and economic recovery,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said Monday.
Eric LanderEric LanderOvernight Health Care — White House proposes B strategy for pandemic preparedness White House unveils B pandemic preparedness plan Biden administration establishes program to recruit tech professionals to serve in government MORE, director of OSTP, said separately that the U.S. Digital Corps would “give early-career people from all backgrounds the opportunity to serve the country, make a difference, and be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
The announcement of the program came days after the Justice Department announced that it was establishing a separate three-year fellowship program to train attorneys to prosecute cybersecurity-related cases.
Both the programs were established following mounting cybersecurity incidents, such as ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS USA in May, and as the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified due to the more contagious delta variant.
The need to build the cybersecurity workforce was a key piece of the discussion during President Biden’s meeting at the White House last week with the CEOs of more than two dozen groups, including the leaders of Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft.
Biden noted at the top of the meeting that “our skilled cybersecurity workforce has not grown fast enough to keep pace” with threats from nation states and cyber criminal groups.
“About a half a million cybersecurity jobs remain unfilled,” Biden said. “That is a challenge, but it also is a real opportunity.”