In January, CyberSaint CEO George Wrenn penned his thoughts on the impact of the government shutdown. In his post, George foresaw the outcome of the shutdown not being a future talent shortage for government cybersecurity position but a brain drain on existing resources. Here we are, three weeks out, and George’s notion has proved true - many cybersecurity leaders are more concerned with retaining existing employees than they are about sourcing new ones in the future.
“Cybersecurity is a field that has an endemic talent shortage,” Nate Fick [CEO of Endgame and former Marine] said. “All of a sudden you have these professionals who are furloughed and unpaid, the phones of private companies are ringing off the hook and it’s hard to get them back.”
Unable to deliver on why cybersecurity professionals started
For many members of the government’s cybersecurity and other technical teams, they took their position for the stability that a government role could offer. However, what the shutdown illuminated was the crippling instability that their positions face. Coupled with the mission-driven nature of their position, and having to abandon that mission for three weeks, current cybersecurity employees are feeling especially disillusioned. For many federal cybersecurity employees, in order to receive unemployment benefits, they were required to apply for private sector jobs - which combined with the existing cybersecurity skills shortage facing the entire industry, has led to a building exodus of talent from the public sector. "Government employees have been busier than ever," says Carlos Perez, head of research and development at the IT security firm TrustedSec. "Many are leaving so far."
Deadlines shift in face of a second shutdown
With the possibility of a second shutdown occurring on February 15th, NIST has scrambled to move up the release date of the initial public draft of NIST 800-171 revision 2 to the 14th (previously scheduled for later in the year).
BREAKING: NIST plans to move up the release date on the initial public draft of SP 800-171, Revision 2 to 02-14-2019. We want to get this critical update to our customers before February 15 in the event of a second government shutdown. #StopTheAPT #CyberResiliency #ProtectCUI pic.twitter.com/3hR2MBcHpR— Ron Ross (@ronrossecure) February 7, 2019
For many members of these teams, including NIST, they recognize the gravity of their mission - their frameworks and documentation referenced across the public and private sectors alike. However, the probability of a future shutdown is shaking the sense of mission that is critical for these teams.
The future of government cybersecurity operations
As we saw during the shutdown, the resources and frameworks offered by NIST proved crucial such that the organization was partially re-funded to allow access to their cybersecurity documentation. As the cybersecurity industry stares down 3 million unfilled job openings worldwide, and the government faces the long-term repercussions of the shutdown, maintaining the cybersecurity integrity of our government is paramount. As we’ve seen with NIST and the NICE education initiative, the cross-pollination of ideas between public and private sectors and academia is absolutely essential. Moving forward, leveraging these relationships further to supplement a shrinking federal cybersecurity workforce could emerge as a viable solution.