Philip Cao

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

(ISC)² Delivers Recommendations to White House Chief of Staff, Urging Prioritization of Workforce Development in Final Cybersecurity EO and Beyond

5 min read


In a recent blog post, I encouraged our U.S. government members to think short-term and be cautious to draw conclusions within the first 90 days of the Trump Administration. I also mentioned that one of (ISC)²’s immediate goals was to deliver a set of recommendations to the presidential team.

In advance of the new administration’s 100th day in office next week, the following list of recommendations was delivered to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and others on the Trump team as well as to the Subcommittee on Information Technology during a congressional hearing on April 4. With this and future efforts to advocate for the cyber workforce, we want to emphasize the need for the new administration to prioritize workforce development – in the pending cybersecurity executive order and beyond.

  • Time Is of The Essence. The widespread and damaging effects of cyber threats are revealed on a daily basis. At the same time, the demand for skilled cybersecurity workers is rapidly increasing. The 2017 (ISC)² Global Information Security Workforce Study reveals a projected workforce gap of 1.8 million information security workers by 2022.
  • Consider the Progress Already Made. Cybersecurity is a bi-partisan issue. Critical work has been done over the last 8 years to advance the cybersecurity workforce. (ISC)² was a strong advocate of the Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) which led to the creation of the first federal CISO position under the previous administration. That is why we recommend the reinstatement of both the federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) and CISO positions, but with greater authority. The next federal CIO and CISO must have the ability to positively affect change, have a depth of experience in both the technical and managerial aspects of cybersecurity, and must be advocates for effective, holistic cybersecurity solutions that include people, process and technology as equally essential components.
  • Harden the Workforce. Everyone must learn cybersecurity. We have to break the commodity focus of simply buying technology and stopping there, without focusing on training all users. From the intern to the CEO, the mindset needs to be, “Cybersecurity is everyone’s job.” To achieve this, we need to encourage cybersecurity cross-training to promote cyber literacy across all departments within federal agencies.
  • Incentivize Hiring and Retention. In today’s world, a sense of mission doesn’t always override good pay — incentives work. For example, following the cybersecurity hiring authorities passed by Congress in 2014, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) provided pay incentives at 20-25% above an employee’s annual pay to motivate new cybersecurity hires. The practice of incentive pay needs to be replicated throughout the federal government in order to attract experts from the private sector. This perk also plays a key role in retaining cybersecurity talent. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials recently surpassed Generation X as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce. The 2017 (ISC)² Global Information Security Workforce Study found that paying for professional memberships and training are key drivers in job satisfaction with this demographic.
  • Prioritize investment in Acquisition, Legal and Human Resources (HR) Personnel. Acquisition, legal and HR professionals are essential players within the federal cybersecurity ecosystem. They need to be educated on both the needs of the customer and the nuances of the cyber workforce in order to develop accurate Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and job descriptions that will result in quality hires and the procurement of secure products and systems.
  • Prevent Getting Lost in Translation. The government needs effective communicators who can translate technical risk to business leaders in order to improve communications between cyber personnel and the boardroom. Effectiveness of the CISO role in the future will depend upon a “translation” layer of personnel that must be established and trained. The government realized this in changes made to OMB Circular A-123, which now calls for a chief risk officer at each agency. Efforts to align technology risk with mission and business strategies should leverage this OMB initiative.
  • Civil Service Reform. The civil service system is broken and does not meet the government’s needs. In our best effort to attract and retain top cyber talent, we are handicapped by the government’s antiquated general schedule (GS) classification and pay system that makes it difficult to promote high-achievers and re-position non-achievers. One such reform effort should be considered – the “cyber national guard” concept – which would allow the federal government to repay student loans of STEM graduates who agree to work for a number of years in a federal agency before returning to the private sector. This will serve as a natural extension to the existing Scholarship for Service (SFS) program and will help to expand the broader workforce development initiative.
  • Compliance Does Not Equal Security — Embrace Risk Management. According to NIST, the definition of resilience is “the ability of an information system to continue to: (i) operate under adverse conditions or stress, even if in a degraded or debilitated state, while maintaining essential operational capabilities; and (ii) recover to an effective operational posture in a timeframe consistent with mission needs.” In the government’s quest for cyber resiliency, a risk management perspective will be essential.
  • A Standard Cyber Workforce Lexicon. In November 2016, NIST released draft NIST Special Publication 800-181, titled “NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework (NCWF),” and is currently reviewing public comments. (ISC)² is working to align our certifications with this new Framework which represents years of collaboration across government, industry and academia. According to NIST, the “NCWF provides a fundamental reference resource for describing and sharing information about cybersecurity work roles, the discrete tasks performed by staff within those roles, and the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed to complete the tasks successfully.” Once finalized, this Framework should provide an excellent resource for workforce development, planning, training and education.

As I mentioned in the previous blog, now more than ever, our collective voice needs to be heard. I would like to thank members of the (ISC)² U.S. Government Advisory Council (USGAC), former Federal CISO Gregory Touhill and the other federal agency CISOs and executives who participated in discussions surrounding these critical considerations. Conversation is key to progress.

Dan Waddell, CISSP, CAP, PMP
Regional Managing Director, North America Region, (ISC)²

[(ISC)² Blog]

Leave a Reply

Copyright © 2006-2022 Philip Hung Cao. All rights reserved