Shutterstock image ID: 569172169 By Zenzen

Will new cyber workforce order solve the retention problem?

The new cyber workforce executive order looks to make it easier for employees to take on cybersecurity roles within government, but agency IT officials point out the measure has limitations.

Shane Barney, chief information security officer of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the order still leaves the challenge of keeping employees in the building.

"What I'm not sure how much will get addressed with the executive order is, what about retention?" he said at a May 9 event hosted by Government CIO. "Where government is unbelievably good, is we can bring in fresh talent … then we'll train them like there's no tomorrow" before they get hired by the private sector.

Barney said government use "some really great things" like cyber pay and progressing up the general schedule as incentives for retaining some employees, but he still sees employees, after the training and experience provided by government, head out the door.

"I'm sure any CISO or any CIO could tell you the horror stories of that exact same experience," he said. "It really hurts us. And that's a difficult gap to breach."

Beth Killoran, deputy CIO at the General Services Administration, said that the public service pull of working in government is a strong one, "but if we aren't being able to, at some point, meet the new employee's needs … they're going to look for other opportunities."

The executive order "is not going to increase or decrease retention," she said, adding that keeping employees fulfilled and meeting their career needs is "something we have to be conscious of."

Killoran also said that when it comes to policy, she wouldn't want anything that would "limit folks in their career opportunities," because a restrictive or binding contract could have the effect of pushing otherwise interested people away from government.

The most effective ways to keep employees, she said, include continuing and tailoring training and procuring "as good of technology as we can provide" for the workplace to show employees that "you don't have to go to a Google or an Amazon to get the latest tech."

"If we can either show folks that we can improve their skillset or show folks they'll have opportunities they're not going to have at a different agency or the private sector, that's what's going to keep them," she said.

Reader comments

Tue, May 21, 2019 Omw Out DISA

Agreed with two previous comments 100%. Adding to that, senior and mid-level leadership has become a protected safe haven for toxic and incompetent management that wouldn't survive in the private sector (read: real world). They get into these positions and effectively drive out the competent workforce choosing not to tolerate the stagnant and hostile atmospheres they perpetuate such that the agencies are left hemorrhaging talent out of every orifice. Start holding leadership accountable and you'll start seeing a change. If you're not willing to apply performance measures and [actual] consequences to toxic GS14 and above, nothing is going to change.

Thu, May 16, 2019

End the Federal Mafia reign. When overstayed management continues to thwart progressive policy because they choose to micro manage and force control, they reduce any urge to excel. Why bother when accountability is pushed aside over favoritism. Image a system where the inept are secured and the hard reaching are pushed out the door due to jealousy. It's safe to say every agency is suffering from the exodus. Only problem is management views this as opportunity instead of loss. A chance to replace the faithful with the peons.

Mon, May 13, 2019 USDA

It is not just learning new technology and staying on top of the newest innovations but also the leadership within cyber security that drives people out the door. When people are leaving in max exodus it is most likely management and not the lure of new technology. Need to make sure that personnel placed in leadership positions know how to manage their personnel.

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