Sen. Tom Carper introduced a bill to give DHS expanded hiring authority for cybersecurity experts. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
The Department of Homeland Security would be given authority to pay cybersecurity professionals more and to hire them faster under legislation passed May 21 by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the committee, introduced the DHS Cybersecurity Workforce Retention Act of 2014, would give the DHS secretary the same hiring authorities as the Defense Department and the National Security Agency to set pay scales and speed up hiring times.
He said while DHS has been making strides in building a leadership team the shortage of talented cybersecurity professionals remains a problem. Adding the hiring authorities will allow the agency to compete with the private sector.
“This will create a level playing field for hiring and retaining top talent,” Carper said during debate over the legislation.
The legislation would allow the DHS secretary to appoint someone with cybersecurity skills to an “excepted service” with pay set at prevailing levels within the industry. DHS could also convert positions into the excepted service.
DHS would have 120 days from passage of the bill to submit a plan to Congress for using the hiring authority and then would have to provide annual reports on its use for four years
John Streufert, director of Federal Network Resilience at DHS, will head the roster of speakers at a June 11 breakfast event on the theme of protecting federal networks from cyber attacks. Click here for information and to register for this free event.
Sen Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said the legislation will help the agency be competitive in an age when cybersecurity is important to securing American security.
“The necessity of this cannot really be questioned in terms of its need to fulfill the mission of homeland security,” Coburn said.
But Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said the hiring authorities would just force agencies to compete with each other over cybersecurity professions and drive up the cost. The legislation could cost the government an extra $30 million a year in salaries, she said.
“I am not sure throwing money inside the beltway is going to solve the problem,” she said.
The government should instead focus on hiring professionals in areas outside of the beltway, where salaries are lower and the government can get more for its money, she said.
“This system that we have been establishing with good intentions but I think with very troubling consequences is also undervaluing the skills we have outside the beltway,” she said.