Advocacy Blog

This week, CompTIA held its third annual  Excellence in Cybersecurity Award ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.  The ceremony recognizes members of Congress and federal agency program managers who are making important strides in using federal resources wisely to improve the cybersecurity skills of those who work for the U.S. Government.

This year, we honored Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Lisa Dorr, Director of IT Workforce Planning and Development at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)..

John McGlinchy, CompTIA’s senior VP, Global Business Development, opened the event discussing the importance of cybersecurity and highlighting the need for a skilled workforce. He began, “The challenge before us is great. The United States has an incredibly vast mix of agencies and departments, employing millions of people. All branches of the government are impacted by our modern day cybersecurity landscape. The need for a robust cyber workforce is only growing. Every year in the U.S. there are 128,000 openings for Information Security Analysts, but only 88,000 workers are currently employed in those positions – a talent shortfall of 40,000 workers for cybersecurity’s largest job.”

In fact, according to the CompTIA Cyberstates Tech Jobs Outlook, the tech workforce will be 8 million strong by 2024. Increasingly, all tech jobs are becoming cybersecurity jobs. “Cyber workforce initiatives are more important than ever. The workforce gap is growing—the projected shortage is expected to reach 1.8 million professionals by 2022,” said McGlinchy.

To get a sense of where we stand today in terms of jobs versus talent, McGlincy encouraged the audience to check out CyberSeek™, an online resource designed to enhance our nation’s cybersecurity workforce. CyberSeek is an interactive cybersecurity jobs heat map developed by CompTIA with a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), supported by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), with our partner Burning Glass. The map clearly demonstrates that cybersecurity talent is not keeping pace with demand.

“There is a gap between the good guys and the bad guys (hackers) and we need to reduce the gap with a highly-skilled workforce that is able to secure our critical IT systems and track down the bad actors around the globe. To fill the pipeline of qualified workers and encourage advancement in the cybersecurity field, apprentice program and certifications are vital” said McGlinchy.

McGlinchy concluded, “We all need to be better cybersecurity citizens. Our government has a vital role to play in working with industry to champion the tech workforce and define what is that gold standard.  This morning we have in the room those champions -- our award honorees.”

Next was our keynote speaker, Acting Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Cybersecurity and Communications Danny Toler.  “Cybersecurity is a global issue, the internet knows no boundaries, if we fortify the US infrastructure we’re still not going to be safe.  When DHS looks at the Internet of Things (IoT), we see potential disruptions to U.S. commerce – this is not just a DHS problem.”

Acting Assistant Secretary Toler also discussed the importance of certifications and why they matter.  “Keeping skills up-to-date is important in responding to current cyber threats.  We need to look at individuals with those skills gained from certifications, recruit them, and compensate them accordingly.”

Before introducing the winners, Elizabeth Hyman, executive vice president of CompTIA Public Advocacy, said, “CompTIA has long been a partner to the federal workforce in working towards recruitment, training, certification, and retention of a top-notch cyber workforce. We are glad to see continuity in these policies in the Trump Administration’s recent cybersecurity Executive Order (EO).”

2017 CompTIA Excellence in Cybersecurity Honorees

Our first honoree was Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), who serves as the chair of the Senate Armed Services Cybersecurity Subcommittee.  He has been instrumental in overseeing Defense Department programs related to cyber forces and capabilities. Sen. Rounds also sponsored the DOD Cyber Scholarship Program Act, which seeks to modify and enhance an existing DOD scholarship program for students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity fields. Such a measure would represent an important step supporting the nation’s ongoing need for a strong cyber workforce.

Rounds said, “In an increasingly technologically advanced world, the threat of a serious and damaging cyber-attacks on our nation continues to grow.  We need to respond to cyber attacks, follow those hackers to all the networks they’ve infected and make it costly for them.  Once the attacks happen and they will happen, we need to figure out how rebuild those system.  Bad guys are out there.”

He added, “A well-trained and highly skilled cyber workforce is essential to addressing the United States’ growing cybersecurity challenges. There are good-paying jobs across the country in the cyber field that are going unfilled, and it’s clear we must make it easier for students to access the programs that prepare them for these roles. There’s a huge opportunity out there now and for generations to come.”

Our second honoree was Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI).  Congressman Langevin has been one of the leading voices in the House on cybersecurity issues through his work on the House Armed Services Committee Emerging Threats subcommittee and the House Homeland Security Committees subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies. Rep. Langevin has championed a competition that introduces high school students to the rapidly growing cybersecurity field and obtained funding to start other workforce development initiatives. These proposals are crucial for ensuring we fill out the next generation cyber workforce.

Congressman Langevin began by saying, “The cybersecurity workforce component is so vital to cyber threat risk mitigation. We must do everything in our power to build our cyber workforce because no matter how strong our cybersecurity policy is, it is utterly meaningless without the men and women to execute it.”

He added, “Growing the cybersecurity workforce is complicated.  One proven method with a short ramp up is the use of industry standard certifications.  Certifications like CompTIA’s allow employers to know what they are getting with skills validated to a global benchmark,” said Langevin. “We also need to support higher education and provide pathways to degree programs in the cybersecurity field.  To that end, I have been working with Senator Kaine to reinvigorate and modify an existing DoD scholarship program for students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity field.  This program had been extremely successful, bringing nearly 600 students into the DoD workforce. However, due to budget constraints, DoD reduced fund for the program and stopped new students.”

Langevin said if we are truly to meet our workforce challenges in the long term, we need to improve our cybersecurity education at the K-12 level.  In the new economy, he stressed, computer science isn’t an optional skill but a basic skill.

Our final honoree was Lisa Dorr, Director of IT Workforce Planning and Development and Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of Chief Information Office (OCIO) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dorr’s work at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) implementing the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Assessment Act has been a critical step in identifying the cybersecurity workforce needs of her agency and securing the personal information of millions of Americans. Through her leadership, Lisa has spearheaded HHS’s efforts to develop and implement vital cybersecurity policies and processes, execute smart workforce development strategies, and implement much-needed security-focused training and awareness that will ultimately lead to increased protections across the department’s most sensitive networks.

Dorr said, “HHS spends $12.6 billion in IT.  If we can’t protect that technology investment, we can’t provide citizens health and human services.  Goal #1 is sustaining a cyber workforce.  Not only do we need to be able to get cyber talent but we need to be able to sustain talent.  HHS is partnering with other agencies to address workforce needs including focusing on identifying a workforce.”

In addition to sustaining a cyber workforce, it’s also important to invest in your people.  Dorr said, “At HHS, we have 800,000 people in our workforce.  Educating that workforce about cyber threats is vital.  Through HHS's Cybersecurity Communications, Awareness, Response, and Education (CARE) program, we provide cybersecurity education, training, and awareness tips including teaching better and safer online practices.”

At the end of the ceremony, Hyman closed by saying, “Data is critical to government functions, making it a valuable resource that malicious actors have sought to exploit. With such sensitive data at risk, these honorees are leading the charge to ensure that government workers have the skills and resources to protect federal systems now and in the future.”