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Federal HR wants to modernize cybersecurity recruiting, pay

The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security wants to modernize recruitment and management of its cybersecurity workforce. It is asking vendors to explain how DHS can achieve its goals.

The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security wants dramatic changes in hiring and management of cybersecurity professionals. It seeks 21st Century HR practices and technologies, with a goal of making the federal HR program as competitive as the private sector.

This effort will streamline hiring and improve cybersecurity recruiting. DHS wants a pay system for cybersecurity professionals based on "individual's skills and capabilities." New HR technologies are sought as well.

The proposed federal HR improvements are in a request for information to vendors. In this knowledge gathering effort vendors are asked to estimate the cost, and outline the expertise and technologies needed to achieve this reform. It doesn't obligate the government but sets the stage for contract proposals. Its goals are sweeping.

DHS, for instance, said it wanted to end 20th Century federal HR practices, such as annual reviews. Instead, it wants 21st Century methods, such as Continuous performance management.

The goal is modernizing federal HR technologies and processes, but with a focus on improving cybersecurity recruiting and retention.

Analysts see DHS moving in the right direction

HR analysts contacted about the planned federal cybersecurity recruiting reform seemed impressed.

"The scope of this is really big and it's very ambitious," said Kyle Lagunas, research manager in IDC's talent acquisition and staffing research practice. "I'm really encouraged to see this. It really captures, I think, where the industry is going."

It's all in the right direction.
Josh Bersinfounder and principal, Bersin by Deloitte Consulting

"This sounds like good stuff to me," said Josh Bersin, founder and principal of Bersin by Deloitte Consulting. "It's all in the right direction," he said.

Both analysts said that if DHS achieves its goals it will rank with leading businesses in HR best practices.

DHS employs some 11,000 cybersecurity professionals and leads government efforts to secure public and private critical infrastructure systems.

The U.S. said in 2016 that there weren't enough cybersecurity professionals to meet federal HR needs. President Barack Obama's administration called for a "government-wide" federal HR cybersecurity recruitment strategy. President Donald Trump's administration is reaching out to vendors for specifics.

DHS published its request for information for reforming federal HR in early May, asking for cost estimates and ideas for modernizing cybersecurity hiring and management. It sought specific capabilities such as the ability to process as many as 75,000 applicants per year. It wants, as well, applicant assessment technologies. This can include virtual environments, for testing "real-world application of technical cybersecurity competencies."

Feds boldly make a case for reform of cybersecurity recruiting

But what distinguished this particular federal HR request, from so many other government requests for information, was its dramatic framing of the goal.

The 20th Century way of recruiting involves posting a job and "hoping the right candidates apply," said DHS in its request to vendors. The new 21st Century method -- is to "strategically recruit from a variety of sources on an ongoing basis, and use up-to-date, cybersecurity-focused standards and validated tools to screen, assess and select talent."

DHS also wants to adopt "market-sensitive pay" to more readily compete for people, a smart move, according to Lagunas. "If they want to bring in top cybersecurity talent they are going to have to make sure they are very competitive in their pay and practices."

In what may be a nod to the growing contingent workforce, DHS wants a federal HR plan for "dynamic careers." This involves "streamlined movement" from the private sector to government and back again.

The deadline for vendor responses to the government's request for information is May 25.

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