A couple of years back, my colleague Don Tennant wrote about a proposal within the military to create a cyber warfare career path that would allow Marines to serve out their commitments stateside, meaning they would not spend months or years at a time away from their families.
The Air Force is taking another approach: Creating career paths for both officers and enlisted personnel that allow cyber experts to stay in the field through their military careers.
Skip Runyan, the technical director for the 39th Information Operations Squadron, the Air Force's main cyber training unit, told Federal News Radio:
Part of the reason that folks are getting out is that, right, wrong or indifferent, we give people one tour in cyber or in the operational side of things, and then we tell them that their next tour is going to be pulling wire somewhere. They say, 'Thanks, but I'll go work for a civilian corporation and keep doing what I love and what I do best.' We want to give them a career path and give them an incentive to stay in the Air Force.
It's no secret that Uncle Sam has trouble keeping good help. Amid the ever-increasing cyber attacks on our government, cyber security grows ever more important. The Air Force understands, however, that generally the pay is better in the private sector. Said Runyan:
The money's better on the outside. We get that. But when you're working with the right authorities here, you can do a lot of things that can get you put in jail in the private sector.
IT pros, especially, want to see a clear career path for themselves, Vincent Milich, director of the IT Effectiveness Practice at Hay Group,
also told me in an interview, so the Air Force strategy could pay off.
Meanwhile, the 2012 Career Impact Survey by security organization (ISC)2 found opportunities for advancement and raises exist in the public sector, though budget-cutting is taking its toll. At the same time, 83 percent of hiring managers cited difficulty in recruiting skilled professionals who meet the specific cyber security needs of their agencies, reports ExecutiveGov.com. It quotes W. Hord Tipton, (ISC)2 executive director, as saying:
These survey results reinforce the need for a distinct career path in this field and a definition of roles in order to make it easier for hiring managers to find and place candidates with the right qualifications.
The government has been hard at work on defining such roles and essential skills, but like everything in government, it's a laborious process.