Senate Passes Bill to Allow Cybersecurity Workers to Rotate Agencies

The Senate passed legislation this week by unanimous consent that would allow cybersecurity workers to rotate through agencies in need of cyber expertise. The Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program of 2019 is aimed at filling workforce gaps and increasing public sector competitiveness with private sector cyber groups.

Under the bill, cyber security employees would be able to work in a different agency for 180 days with the option for a 60 day extension. After this time, the employee would return to their home agency for at least the same among of time as their rotation before they could rotate again.

The legislation calls upon the Office of Personnel Management, the federal Chief Human Capital Officers Council, and the Department of Homeland Security to develop an operation plan “that establishes the procedures and requirements for the program, including the employee application and selection process and agency management of cyber employees participating in the program.”

The bill was introduced by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) with bipartisan support from cosponsors Senators John Hoeven (R-ND), Margaret Hassan (D-NH), and Ron Johnson (R-WI).

Senator Hoeven said in a Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee statement, “Cybersecurity will continue to grow in importance, both in the public and private sectors. Our bipartisan legislation will help the federal government better fulfill the need for cybersecurity professionals by expanding opportunities for training and professional development. That means better recruitment and retention of this critical workforce and a more secure nation.”

Federal cyber workforce management challenges have landed on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) High Risk List each year since 2003, particularly the difficulty in hiring and retaining cyber talent, according to the committee report on the legislation.

The aforementioned HSGAC statement discusses the difficulty the public sector has competing with the salaries and benefits offered by Silicon Valley tech giants; however, working in government agencies provides “valuable opportunities to serve the country and defend our cyber front lines.” By allowing cyber workers to gain experience from multiple agencies and grow their professional networks, lawmakers are hoping the public sector will be able to better attract and retain top talent.

The GAO is tasked with reporting on the program created through the legislation, which would require renewal after five years.

While there is no companion bill in the House yet, a congressional source told FedScoop that Senate sponsors have reached out to the House about how to move the legislation forward.

“The only way we can guard against the ever-expanding number of cybersecurity threats we face is if the federal government can attract and retain highly skilled cybersecurity professionals,” Senator Hassan said in the HSGAC statement. “Now that this bipartisan bill has unanimously passed the Senate, I urge our House colleagues to take it up without delay to help bolster the safety and privacy of all Americans.”

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