A new bipartisan Senate bill wants to bolster the cybersecurity workforce by coordinating workforce programs and defining cybersecurity career pathways.

The “Harvesting American Cybersecurity Knowledge through Education (HACKED) Act,” introduced Nov. 5 by two Republicans and two Democrats in the Senate, would direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which sets security controls for technology used in the federal government, to produce “standards and guidelines improving cybersecurity awareness of employees and contractors of federal agencies" within three years of the bill becoming law.

The bill also seeks to coordinate workforce programs across the federal government through a new Office of Science and Technology Policy working group, according to a news release. Individual agencies have several workforce programs aimed at improving and expanding their cybersecurity staff, though they are largely agency-specific. The Office of Management and Budget also has a cyber reskilling academy, though it’s currently a small-scale operation with only 25 employees going through the first cohort, which graduated in July.

“This legislation makes investments in federal cybersecurity programs and will help us fill the gaps in our cyberdefense,” said Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev. “We must continue to prioritize forward-thinking solutions that provide our businesses, communities, and government with the skilled workforce they need to strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity infrastructure and protect Americans’ data from bad actors.”

The cyber reskilling academy has also had a difficult time placing graduates into cybersecurity jobs because of the the Office of Personnel Management’s general schedule for federal employee hiring. The bill seeks to redress the trouble in hiring cybersecurity requirements, directing OPM to “identify career opportunities in the federal government, including noncompetitive hiring pathways, including for individuals who participate in federal cybersecurity workforce training programs.”

According to Cyber Seek, there are 17,000 cybersecurity job openings in the public sector. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the bill would “help address this by training cybersecurity educators and skilling American workers to do these jobs, as well as increasing coordination on these issues throughout the government."

The HACKED Act also would incentivize the recruitment of cybersecurity educators and align education and training programs to meet cyber workforce needs, according to the news release.

“It is critical that the United States stay ahead of malicious cyber activity with a workforce that can safeguard our innovation, research and work environments,” Wicker said. “This legislation is an important first step to expand the cybersecurity workforce and provide tools to support necessary education and training.”

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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