Friday, May 24, 2024

Fed Gov Cybersecurity: ‘Severe Shortcomings’

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A new study from the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen and Hamilton has warned of severe shortcomings in the federal government’s defenses against cyber threats, highlighting a critical shortage of skilled security professionals and a lack of coordination among the agencies.

“With most Americans, it would hardly set off alarms to hear that our federal workforce faces significant challenges, such as difficulty in recruiting and retaining highly skilled
workers, a reliance on contractors to fill talent gaps, poor management and arcane processes that undermine employee performance, and a lack of coordination that leaves some agencies competing against one another for talent,” the report said.

“What should get people’s attention is the fact that these government-wide problems are particularly acute within the federal cybersecurity workforce, creating potential for major vulnerabilities for our national security.”

The private sector, in the form of government contractors, often steps in to fill the talent void. In the Department of Homeland Security, for instance, contractors account for 83 percent of the workforce in the office of the CIO.

“Government not only needs to recruit and train more people with cybersecurity expertise, it needs more people who can effectively manage the blended cybersecurity workforce,” the report concluded.

But what is to be done?

Obama has set in motion what he promises will be a sweeping overhaul of the federal cybersecurity apparatus, bringing together the agencies, lawmakers and the private sector. And, daunting as that sounds, administration officials promise that it’s not just idle talk.

There’s a big bill coming through the Commerce Committee, but it’s run into some pretty significant opposition and faces uncertain prospects in the near term given the major debates underway over health care and energy reform with the August recess looming.

Both Obama and Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller have included cybersecurity training and education in their plans in an effort to increase the talent pool.

It’s often noted that Congress moves most swiftly in the face of a crisis. Despite several high-profile breaches and attacks, hackers haven’t yet succeeded in knocking a major piece of critical infrastructure, like, say the power grid, offline for a sustained period of time. But it’s not for lacking of trying, as officials have said that sensitive networks like those in the Pentagon are under constant attack.

“The president’s success in combating these threats and the safety of the nation will depend on implementing a comprehensive and coordinated strategy — a goal that must include building a vibrant, highly trained and dedicated cybersecurity workforce in this country,” the report found.

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