Work from home

Pentagon preparing to let its cyber sleuths work from home

The dimly lit basement haunted by a black-hoodie hacker is the popular image of a dangerous cyberattacker’s habitat, and the Pentagon looks comfortable with that environment for its digital defenders too.

The Defense Department is eyeing remote work options for its cyber workforce as part of a new strategy to attract and keep top talent in its ranks. The 2023-2027 “DOD Cyber Workforce Strategy” lists a goal of championing “remote work flexibilities and policies to expand opportunities across the cyber workforce.”

Of course, it’s up to the cyber workers whether they do this remote work in a basement.

Department of Defense Chief Information Officer John Sherman recently told House lawmakers that he is looking for ways to attract top cyber talent without forcing people to move inside the Beltway.

“They can stay in Texas or Massachusetts or Washington state or wherever they are and [we] tap into that talent,” Mr. Sherman told the House Armed Services Committee. “I definitely think that’s something we ought to look at.”

The Department of Defense is one of the world’s largest employers so any change to its cyber workforce’s operations will prompt many other government agencies, private businesses, and other countries to rethink digital workers’ operations too.

America’s largest federal agency is the Department of Defense with some 3.4 million service members and civilian employees spread across 4,800 sites in more than 160 countries, according to the department.

The Pentagon has not publicly identified which components of its cyber workforce would be able to work remotely, including whether such options are available to both civilian and military personnel.

Individual supervisors and components of the department will be empowered to make their own decisions about telework options, said Navy Cmdr. Jessica McNulty, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

“We believe to attract and retain the highest quality talent, we must enable a culture of trust and accountability and provide hybrid work environments,” Cmdr. McNulty told The Washington Times. “Our goal is to balance mission requirements while providing flexibly for the technical workforce.”

The new cyber workforce strategy directs the Department of Defense to undergo a “cultural shift” that will allow it to draw from a more expansive talent pool while utilizing existing authorities.

The strategy, which was unveiled last week, said that COVID-19 restrictions’ effect on people’s expectations for work away from the office has changed the future of work and the department needs to adapt.

“What might seem like a challenge is an opportunity, which if fully embraced and properly communicated, will provide a competitive advantage to recruit, develop and retain world-class cyber talent,” the strategy said. “Specifically, the department needs to facilitate a cultural shift in how it optimizes personnel management authorities and their application.”

The Department of Defense is not the first federal employer rethinking how to fill its ranks with top tech talent. Earlier this year, the National Security Agency undertook one of its largest hiring surges in the last 30 years and has doggedly recruited laid-off Big Tech workers.

The NSA told The Times it was hiring 3,000 employees to work in the Washington area as well as in Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Texas, and Utah.

The Department of Defense is likewise looking to enhance its partnership with the tech sector. The new strategy aims to create an apprenticeship program that will allow for “employment exchanges” with the private sector and to collaborate more with academia to build a “talent pipeline.”

Department of Defense Chief Information Officer John Sherman recently told House lawmakers that he is looking for ways to attract top cyber talent without forcing people to move inside the Beltway.


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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