Department of Defense (DoD) Cyber Workforce Challenges
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) continues to struggle with retaining the top cyber workforce talent necessary to maintain a sustainable and ready force to conduct strategic cyber operations. This has been brought about by the fierce competition emerging from the private sector. The effort of the DoD to retain its cyber workforce is challenged by the low salary and benefits as compared to the higher wages and benefits provided by the private sector for cyber professionals. This has created a crisis in DoD, necessitating the organization to take innovative action and implement strategies to improve its efforts to retain top cyber talent. One of the suggested strategies includes improving wages, benefits, and work environment. Other strategies should entail partnering with private companies and learning institutions to ensure a sufficient cyber workforce is retained within DoD. Numerous strategies can be implemented to ensure DoD has a long-lasting solution to retaining top cyber talent. This Strategic Research Paper will identify the issues surrounding why DoD cannot retain its top cyber talent, and recommend strategies and solutions that it can adapt for retaining, and managing it cyber workforce.
Department of Defense (DoD) Cyber Workforce Challenges
In the past two decades, the number and sophistication of cyber-attacks have grown exponentially. Consequently, the Department of the Defense (DoD) has intensified its war against cyber-invaders by creating some of the best security systems and programs. DoD is striving to sustain and strengthen the expertise needed to safeguard, detect, and respond to different forms of attacks. An effective workforce should have an adequate number of qualified specialists with sufficient knowledge in the cyber sector. However, a numbe r of challenges such as retention of talent, attracting the right candidates, maintaining a good employee experience, and formulating an efficient recruitment process have made the organization less efficient. Regarding the retention of talent and cyber innovation, DoD has faced fierce competition from the private sector. The private sector offers higher salary packages, and since most talented individuals are seeking employers offering decent pays, they are more likely to leave DoD for lucrative wages Thus, the private sector has created a huge problem for the DoD by offering higher salaries, necessitating the creation of strategies to reduce employee turnover by retaining talented cyber operators in a bid to strengthen the security systems and programs. The current research investigates the reasons why the DoD has failed to fend off stiff competition from the private sector for talented cyber specialists. The paper will provide a comprehensive analysis of possible solutions to address talent management challenges facing the cyber section of the DoD.
Why DoD is Losing its Cyber Talent
For the past few years, DoD has lost a considerable number of cyber specialists, particularly those working in computer science and IT-related positions. In 2018, principal deputy CIO in DoD, Essye Miller, indicated that approximately 4000 employees working in the cyber sector left their jobs in 2017. Such a huge loss is attributable to a number of factors such as high salary packages offered by private companies and poor wage structure in DoD. This section explores the reasons why the DoD is struggling to retain and attract talented cyber experts based on the changes which have already occurred in the market such as an increased number of private companies seeking cyber expertise.
The Private Sector Pay and Benefit
The DoD has a significant challenge in recruiting and acquiring experienced cybersecurity mission specialists. According to a report by Global Information Security, in organizations responsible for cyber-security compliance, oversight, and enforcement, the expert shortage is likely to exceed 1.8 million by 2022. The reality is that DoD cannot compete with the technology sector and Silicon Valley in terms of compensation, salaries, and other benefits. Google, for example, has competed favorably in the information sector due to its ability to attract, motivate, and retain its workforce by offering lucrative benefit plans. The recruiting process for Google targets highly talented cybersecurity operators by offering competitive salaries and compensations. Also, Google has developed a work culture that provides a healthy work environment. For instance, the company provides on-site facilities such as clinics, break rooms, rest areas, gyms, and much more to provide a healthy work environment. Google believes that “if the employee has everything they need at work, why would they ever leave.” This forces DoD to focus on the advantages it may have over the other competitors regarding compensations and salaries as well as a working environment.
One of the most significant advantages that the military has is that it has ready recruitment and hiring guidance programs that help in solving a number of issues surrounding the employment process such engaging qualified candidates, hiring fast, and using data-driven techniques among others. Thus, the organization can recruit suitable candidates in core security positions. The recruits go through the cyber-training within their schools which partner with the civil and professional certification programs. This is one of the three ways that DoD uses to obtain a competitive advantage over private companies. However, upon completion of training and the fulfillment of their obligation, DoD loses these trained, experienced, and highly competent personnel to private companies due to better terms and conditions of employment. For instance, a cybersecurity analyst is poised to earn between $70,000 and $120,000 per year in the private sector compared to about $48,000 in government institutions such as DoD. Expectedly, individuals will be more willing to work in companies where they are earning more for their skills, which explains why they are abandoning DoD jobs. Therefore, high wages in the private sector are an enormous challenge facing the US Department of Defense and the organization has a responsibility of creating an effective strategy to combat this problem. Formulating an innovative strategy to deal with salary issues should be the first step that human resource management in DoD should take to redeem the organization back to its original glory. For example, offering a competitive salary package will certainly help the institution to retain top cyber-security talent with the capacity to counter cyber threats that have become more complex in the modern day. Such measures will play a crucial role in helping DoD to meet all its established national security cyber mission goals and maintaining mission readiness.
Upon completion of Cyber Security training, the graduates will have gained techniques crucial to the fight against cyber invasions. Graduates have sufficient skills such as intrusion detection, programming, risk analysis and mitigation, security analysis, and cloud analysis among others that make them valuable and of high demand. This hands-on approach means that DoD produces highly talented cyber specialists than other institutions. Although the personnel is intended to work in DoD to help the organization to solve the puzzle surrounding cybersecurity issues, most of them end up in private companies. With NGOs offering annual six-figure wages, career security, outstanding benefits, and improved career progression, DoD cyber specialists are easily lured to the private sector. Similar to other governmental organizations, the DoD’s payment structure and benefits are lagging far behind those in the private sector due to the poor wage structure. The salary structure of DoD lacks important components such as attractive salaries, vocational benefits such as health insurance, housing, and vacations among others as contained in private companies. For example, the annual pay of an E5 and four years of service earns $ 32,000. A 0-3 with four-years of experience earns $66,300 as per the 2018 pay scale.
In contrast, the average private cybersecurity specialists with four-years of experience earn approximately $120,000 in the private sector, which is a better compensation package compared to the same amount of experience in the public sector. Subsequently, there is a massive tension between DoD and the private sector as the latter tends to entice the highly skilled cyber specialists from the former. While DoD has produced highly experienced personnel for a long time now, it is unfortunate that the organization has inadequate skills, making it unable to compete fairly with the private sector. Resultantly, the innovativeness levels in DoD have shockingly dropped as the number of private companies continue increasing, and more cyber specialists are leaving DoD in search of green pastures.
DoD has always demonstrated success in proper training and retaining valuable skills. For instance, the organization has shown great efforts in retaining aircraft pilots. This retention is based on the fact that DoD provides a monetary bonus depending on the time of service and the general demands in the aircraft sector. It requires additional years of service and years of experiences and exceptional commitment to the department to earn this bonus. With such a robust strategy, DoD has been able to retain these professionals and overcome competition from other organizations. DoD is trying to apply the same type of approach with cybersecurity and IT specialists. This is done through the provision of monetary bonuses, and the personnel is also encouraged to continue to save in the DoD retirement program. According to the recent enactment, the Air Force offered a reward of $15,000 per year for the officer who stays in the DoD for more than four years, especially in the Cyberspace operation career field, with four to twelve years of the commissioned services. The army has also offered the same initiative with bonuses of up to $50,000.
Despite the effort to offer bonuses as a way of retaining the cybersecurity specialists, DoD may fail to keep all of its cyber specialists, particularly those who are determined to work in the private sector for higher salaries. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that there are specialists with right skills willing to work in public sector so long as there is continuous salary increment as experience accumulates, although their number has significantly diminished. It is also worth noting that DoD does not require a 100% retention to function effectively. One of the options that DoD has undertaken is a dual membership technique that allows a person to work both as a civilian while still serving in the military. DoD notifies their cyber trainees of the existence of the National Guard, which is a reserve military force composed of members who can work both as civilians and in the military. To retain considerable services of highly skilled cybersecurity and IT specialists, DoD has provided its members with an opportunity to work in civilian jobs as they continue being part of the military, meaning that their services can be utilized when the need arises. The initiative by DoD was a good move although it was strongly opposed by the private companies who argued that workers were becoming unproductive as a result of working in two environments, thus paying more attention to one sector than the other. For DoD, the arrangement is beneficial because despite such specialists dedicating much of their strength and time to private sector jobs, there still a chance for the organization to obtain their services when the need arises. It also provides a chance to create a more advanced and better relationship between the private sector and the military through a process of shared employment. It is an arrangement that benefits both sectors to maintain highly skilled human resources.
One of the major worries in the DoD is the risk of National infrastructure vulnerability, especially through cyber-attacks due to early stages of national conflicts in the power grid and finance sector. The growing shortage of specialists and competition for the most talented and highly experienced cyber specialists has become a significant challenge. Consequently, DoD finds it difficult to compete favorably against the local industries. However, DoD can be successful through the provision of cutting-edge training, specialized experience, and employing targeted retention techniques that will help in retaining the right expertise vital to data security.
Application of dual working membership will be crucial for DoD to successfully maintain sufficient IT and the respective cyber talents. The approach is necessary for ensuring that the efficiency of the DoD in dealing with cybersecurity issues has remarkably improved to create a continuous growth in the organization. The increased competition can be avoided through a partnership with the private sector and providing proper retention and formation of policies that compel the military trained experts to have a time limit when they must work in the DoD before deciding to stay or leave. It is a strategy that may give the DoD adequate time to exploit the services of their trained experts before releasing them to work in private companies. The arrangement will also help the organization to improve its proficiency through long life retention and improved career progression.
Key Cyber Job Roles and Specialties that DoD is Losing
As indicated in the information above, it is apparent that DoD produces an adequate number of cyber specialists that if retained, they can make the institution one of the best in the United States and all over the world as far as countering cyber threats are concerned. However, the firm always loses top talents to the private sector because of its low salaries and poor work environment. It is on record that for various reasons, DoD loses thousands of Cybersecurity and IT specialists each year to the private sector, particularly to IT management and computer science companies. Most of the job losses occurring in the Department of Defense are related to the cyber sector than other areas. The DoD has been known to train the most skilled and highly experienced personnel that are in high demand to different sectors. However, most institutions lack the ability to produce fully competent IT and cyber specialists, making it hard to supply the market with adequate individuals possessing right skills, a factor that contributes to deficiency of cyber expertise both in private and public sectors. The loss encompasses the traditional IT Intel roles which include health operations, criminal investigators, and other occupations that utilize the knowledge of IT and cyber expertise to maintain high levels of data security. Thus, to satisfy the market demand, both the DoD and other institutions offering cybersecurity training need to significantly increase the number of individuals enrolling in cybersecurity programs. That way, the DoD will be able to supply enough cyber specialists and adequate experts to sufficiently serve its cybersecurity sector.
The DoD human resource management reveals that the major losses in the IT and the Cybersecurity professions affect different sections of the organization. Some of the job losses were witnessed in areas such as software development, security accessory, network operation, administration, data analysis, and system security analysis. Moreover, DoD has always lost network operators, system testers, and evaluators. Conducting a comprehensive analysis for each of these areas will be crucial for DoD as it will help the institution to come up with a suitable innovative strategy to help it counteract fierce competition from the private companies.
It is necessary for the DoD to focus on planning, coding, malware, data science, linguists, and data security professionals and improve their working conditions ranging from wages, benefits, compensation, and working environments. The absence of these improvements translates to reducing and deteriorating chances of the organization to regain its former glory and topple private sector off its perch. The current high employee turnover has been termed as a pervasive problem that has resulted in insufficient experienced cyber specialists. Although some scholars have termed these losses as normal job turnover, they are detrimental to the organization that is mandated with the data security of the entire nation.
To solve the cybersecurity specialists problem facing the DoD, it will be crucial to match the salary packages offered by private companies, a mechanism that will be crucial in retaining their trained human resource. The move, though expensive, will act as a motivational factor to these specialists and ensure that there is an adequate and long-lasting supply of talents and innovations to make DoD compete satisfactorily with the private sector. Therefore, DoD has a responsibility to come up with the employment policies such as training and development policy that restrict the free movement of military trained cyber personnel and other highly skilled experts from the DoD to the private sector. The DoD should promote efforts that create capacity and the ability to sustain a high level of development in the cyber sector.
Leadership Responsibility of the DoDDoD leadership has a crucial responsibility regarding the management of workforce recruitment as well as retention of skilled professionals in various sectors, including cybersecurity. A robust administration translates to the improved ability of the firm to retain its workers. Competent leadership should formulate strategies with the capacity to solve the high rate of employee turnover. In this case, there are short-term strategies that can be applied. This section will explore a crucial policy that can be useful to the DoD in enhancing their competitiveness and the ability to retain a high level of sustainability and innovations.
The Short-Term Strategies
An immediate step that the DoD has to employ is to stop the high rate of movement from the DoD to the private sector. As indicated earlier, salary increment, vocational benefits, and improving working conditions can improve the retention of top talents in a company. Thus, this should be the first strategy to consider while formulating a policy to improve the retention of skilled cyber specialists.
The next short-term strategy is the restriction of the movement of the trained individuals, particularly the persons specialized in cybersecurity and the IT talents that are vital to the DoD. In this case, the DoD needs to set a limit period that an individual trained by the DoD must take before being allowed to move to the private sector. It is an effort that helps control the free movement whenever a person feels like. In this case, the organization must set a policy that an individual receiving training for more than five years in DoD must take at least ten years before getting the freedom to move to the private sector.
Long-Term Goals and Strategies
One of the long-term goals is to increase the number of individuals recruited for training in cybersecurity and IT related courses. In this context, the DoD must have the capacity and the facility to train more workers and retain them. The training should be based on a long-term increase of supply of specialists to the DoD’s cybersecurity sector. With the increased number, few individuals who would be willing to join the private sector are less likely to affect the capacity of the DoD to retain the required level of expertise.
Although the achievement of this strategy and goal is highly demanding and requires a lot of resources to sustain, it is necessary because public data requires a high level of protection from malicious attacks. Hackers have targeted crucial data belonging to citizens of the country with the aim of extracting crucial information such as the size of the population, types of diseases, and their wealth among others. Thus, it is crucial to protect the public and other governmental data with all means possible. The government through the congress approval will be able to make the public contribution to the training. When training is intensified, both the private sector and the DoD will benefit because the increase in the supply reduces the competition and allows each department or sector to achieve the desired capacity of employees with ease.
A further focus on the long-term goal requires the DoD to partner with the private sector through mechanisms such as business outsourcing. This creates a need for the DoD to share cyber specialists with the private sector using arrangements such as dual membership. However, any private company anticipating to acquire the services of cybersecurity specialist trained by the DoD should pay the organization a certain amount of fee. It is a strategy that is likely to discourage private companies from hiring military trained cybersecurity professionals, leading to increased human resource retention capacity.
Human Capacity Roles and Responsibilities
DoD leadership has the responsibility of establishing competent and efficient human resources. People occupying leadership positions can have a significant influence on the activities in a particular organization. Therefore, human resource management decisions may massively improve sustainability and capability of the cybersecurity sector dealing with web security issues. One way they can achieve this is through the creation of an intradepartmental team. The team may consist of a cyber-adviser with proper DoD management skills and other members in cybersecurity department. The core objective of the team is to ensure that important information concerning the number of trainees under session and other departmental activities is available. The team will also perform analyses to determine the number of cybersecurity specialists and amount each should receive in terms of salary and other benefits to increasing the probability of their retention. The program is not meant to replace the programmatic and the budgetary mechanisms already existing in the DoD, but rather to create a long-lasting skilled workforce aimed at maintaining long-lasting cyber sustainability. Further, the creation of a new division in the DoD responsible for the interrelations will assist in ensuring proper coordination between the private sector and the DoD in a bid to retain the high technical and skilled workers through a dual membership arrangement.
The anticipated change also involves the improvement of Cyber budget. The provision of a budget will sustain a healthy wage structure for the employees in the DoD and finance the major innovative projects carried out by these employees. The current research is based on the desire for the DoD to innovate new techniques that are helpful to the organization and enable it to come up with a strategy that will help the cybersecurity sector to retain its workers. The strategy will ensure proper compensation, which will increase the number of cyber specialists required in the DoD. Appropriate allocation of the budget to finance various activities within the cybersecurity sector is one of the most important means of turnover rate witnessed in the DoD.
Human resource management should also ensure that specialized programs for cyber workforce are in place because technology is a dynamic field that is evolving every day. Technological skills such as programming, knowledge of software, and hardware are perishable. Thus, once these skills have been acquired through training, career progression should foster the retention of workforce depth. Both recurring and specialization training are crucial and should be part of specialized programs to ensure cyber personnel keeps up with the pace of technological changes.
Training programs are essential for any organization because they increase the competency of employees. For DoD, it is crucial to train staff in the best cybersecurity practices to protect the organization’s data. The increased challenges in the DoD, especially in the recruitment of cyber professionals and retaining the existing ones calls for the development of effective strategies.
For instance, due to the inadequacy of the IT professional in the DoD, creating an institution that is owned by the DoD to train people in crucial positions is one of the significant steps towards increasing the size of the human resource. It will also drive a change towards the improvement of the organization’s ability to deal with cyber threats, especially by reducing the competitions since the market will be flooded with talents for both DoD and private companies. This training facility should be well equipped to produce a sufficient number of specialists to satisfy market demand.
There are numerous strategies that should be applied to improve training. One of such strategies is ensuring that individuals enrolled in training do not take too long to graduate. The organization should ensure that two bunches of cyber specialists graduate every year to rapidly increase the number of specialists in the organization and produce a surplus. This will be possible if the US government increases the budget to the cyber sector which will enable the human resource management (HRM) to expand the training facilities that can accommodate a sufficient number of trainees. Also, cyber security management should ensure that the curriculum is up to date, a feat that will result in the production of competent specialists who will remain relevant for a long time in the market.
The improved funds are also fundamental in helping DoD partner with various institutions offering cybersecurity training and courses. The DoD should use funds provided by DoD Congress to send some of its trainees to institutions that are known to produce best cybersecurity specialists in the country such as California University, Boston University, Abertay University, Bellevue University, and Cal Poly Pomona among others. This is achievable through a negotiated deal between the DoD and the learning institutions willing to absorb some of the individuals from DoD. Selecting best cyber security schools allows production of top talents whose skills are less or the same with those graduating from. Involving other learning institutions is important because it will help combat the problem of inadequate cybersecurity specialists in the market.
There are several instances when the DoD has tried to improve its human resource capacity regarding Cybersecurity specialists. For instance, the organization ensures that new bunch of trainees is enrolled every year and hires the best cybersecurity instructors in the country. That way, the organization anticipates increasing the number of highly competent specialists to meet its cybersecurity needs. However, these efforts have always been affected by insufficient funds. Providing adequate funds will ensure that the DoD is stable and has a long-lasting solution for the shortage of cybersecurity experts. The training also has the capability of increasing the level of creativity which will make DoD more competitive in the market. With the high level of competence, the security threats will be massively reduced, especially the increased cases of terrorism and information theft.
The increased competition between the private sector and the DoD for the cyber and IT specialists is one of the greatest challenges facing the organization mandated with the country’s data security. Currently, the DoD has been outcompeted by private companies for the specialists such that it has become difficult for the organization to retain experts it has produced. The problem is attributable to the ability of the private sector to offer lucrative deals such as high wages, increased benefits, and improved work environment. With experts seeking improved job conditions, they are more likely to leave DoD to take jobs in private companies. The problem has been compounded by the fact that higher learning institutions are not producing sufficient cyber and IT specialists, making it difficult for DoD to retain its workers in the cyber security sector. It is for that reason that the organization should engage several initiatives to retain and expand its human resources regarding cyber specialists. Through better compensation and allocation of improved budget to the cybersecurity sector, the organization will be able to prevent movement to private companies. The DoD can also apply other strategies such as partnering with private companies to allow cyber experts to work for both parties. Such an arrangement will allow DoD to benefit from the services of its graduate who are working in various private companies. Alternatively, DoD should come up with a policy that prevents its graduates from leaving the organization for private institutions until after a certain number of years. That way, there will always be sufficient cyber expertise in the organization.
Moreover, the training of individuals through the creation of a partnership with the best learning institutions could be effective in increasing the pool of cyber specialists in the market. The strategy is important in reducing the competition through an increased supply of the professionals to both the department and the private sector. Finally, DoD should seek congress funding to improve its training facilities such as expending institution to accommodate more trainees to increase its output and to produce excess experts some of whom will go to the private sector to reduce competition.
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