DHS announces new program to attract and retain cybersecurity talent

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday announced a new program to attract and retain cybersecurity professionals, as major cyber incidents have ticked up over the past year and are drawing more government attention.

The Cyber Talent Management System (CTMS) will streamline and screen the application process for potential cybersecurity professionals, and those hired through CTMS will join the DHS Cybersecurity Service, a team that will work to protect critical infrastructure against cyberattacks. 

The program will initially be aimed at filling vacancies at DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the DHS Office of the Chief Information Officer, but beginning next year will be used to help fill cybersecurity positions at several other DHS agencies. 

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“The DHS Cybersecurity Talent Management System fundamentally re-imagines how the Department hires, develops, and retains top-tier and diverse cybersecurity talent,” DHS Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasHillicon Valley —TSA to strengthen rail sector cybersecurity TSA issues directives to rail sector to strengthen cybersecurity US to restart 'Remain in Mexico' program following court order MORE said in a statement. 

A senior DHS official told reporters ahead of the announcement that DHS currently has around 1,500 cybersecurity-related vacancies, of which around 1,000 would likely fit into CTMS. 

“It is our goal to hire 150 into our priority roles in 2022, eventually work those out with both CISA and CIOs, it’s going to be a range of roles from entry level to the expert level,” the official told reporters. 

The official noted that the salary for CTMS positions would be based on a “market sensitive pay grade,” and that hiring talent from diverse backgrounds was a key goal, specifically through targeting minority-serving educational institutions and military associations. 

“CTMS by its very nature, and the way that we’ve written regulations, we can actually go in and we can touch the minority-serving institutions, or we can go to for example transition centers with the military … and we can actually then work with them one on one,” the official said. 

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The program is being rolled out after a difficult year for federal cybersecurity, which saw CISA respond to multiple major ransomware attacks on key U.S. groups, such as Colonial Pipeline and meat producer JBS USA, along with several federal agencies coming under attack as part of the SolarWinds hack. 

Mayorkas pointed to the escalating threats in emphasizing the importance of the new hiring program. 

“As our Nation continues to face an evolving threat landscape, we cannot rely only on traditional hiring tools to fill mission-critical vacancies,” Mayorkas said. “This new system will enable our Department to better compete for cybersecurity professionals and remain agile enough to meet the demands of our critical cybersecurity mission.”