DHS cyber has problems with hiring, not retention, says Stempfley

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The Homeland Security Department doesn't have a cybersecurity personnel turnover problem so much as a hiring problem, said Roberta Stempfley, acting assistant secretary of the office of cybersecurity and communications, during a May 16 House hearing.

"We do not have an exorbitant attrition rate, at the operational level, certainly," Stempfley told the House Homeland Security subcommittee on cybersecurity, infrastructure protection, and security technologies.

Departures at the executive level have garnered some attention in recent years starting with the departure in fall 2011 of Sean McGurk, then the head of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center.

More recently, Mark Weatherford, the deputy under secretary for cybersecurity, left in March to return to the private sector after 16 months on the job, and Michael Locatis left the position that Stempfley is now fulfilling in an acting capacity for the second time in January after having spent only 9 months in it.

"What does it say about the department's cyber organization when it cannot retain its senior cyber leadership as well?" said the subcommittee ranking member, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.).

"DHS needs to do some soul-searching and identify why their senior leaders have been leaving," she added.

Stempfley said there are no vacancies below her, and that "we don't see this exceptional attrition rate, but we do see that strong competition" for hiring new positions.

"So what you're saying is that you can't pay people enough?" asked Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas).

"That is part of the problem," Stempfley said. DHS competes with both other federal agencies and the private sector for cybersecurity talent, she said. DHS has pushed for National Security Agency-like hiring authority so far without success.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the full committee ranking member, noted during the hearing that the White House fiscal 2014 DHS budget request proposes $4.8 million less for the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, "cutting the program by a third."

"We cannot continue to complain about the lack of skilled cybersecurity professionals in the American workforce, if we allow DHS to cut the funding it uses to develop the cyber workforce," he said.

For more:
go to the hearing webpage (prepared testimony and webcast available)

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