Peters Remarks on Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Federal Cybersecurity Workforce

Peters’ Bill Passed Unanimously by Committee

WASHINGTON, DCU.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, spoke on the Senate floor today in support of bipartisan legislation he introduced with U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) to train and retain highly-skilled cybersecurity professionals in the federal workforce. The bill was unanimously approved by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee today.

 

Video of his remarks is available here, and below is a copy of the text as prepared for delivery: 

 

“Mr. President, cyber-attacks are one of the greatest threats to our national security today.

“As our world becomes increasingly connected, bad actors are trying to infiltrate our most critical networks – from our military systems and our electrical grid to our financial institutions and small businesses. We face a rising number of cyber-attacks that have the potential to expose our sensitive personal information or disrupt nearly every aspect of our daily lives. 

“These cybersecurity vulnerabilities cut across every industry. Whether you are a small business trying to protect your customers’ credit card details, a doctor’s office with private medical information, or even a sophisticated tech startup that needs to safeguard your customers’ passwords – cybersecurity protections are absolutely vital to your success.

“We have seen the dangerous consequences of attacks that exposed the private data of millions of Americans, from companies like Equifax and Target to federal agencies like the Office of Personnel Management and the IRS. Government agencies of all sizes are at risk of a breach that could jeopardize the sensitive information they are trusted with, and these threats will only continue to grow. We need skilled cyber professionals in place to shore up our cyber protections, fortify our legacy systems and build new and innovative infrastructure with safety and security in mind. 

“Despite the glaring need for more cybersecurity professionals, we face a serious shortage of highly-trained cyber experts to fill positions. Estimates indicate there is a global shortage of approximately 3 million desperately needed cybersecurity professionals, including nearly half a million in North America where government and the private sector are competing to hire the best talent.

“The federal government faces serious challenges in this competition. Agencies often cannot offer the same top salaries and benefits that Silicon Valley uses to entice and retain employees. Our cyber workforce is on the front lines of every aspect of our digital security and we need policies that address that reality and sustain and grow our ranks. 

“While thousands of dedicated public servants choose to work in government because they are motivated by the mission of serving their country, there is more we can do to grow the pool of cyber workers and recruit them to government service. 

“Congress has made strides in recent years to improve incentives and attract skilled cyber professionals to join the ranks. Moving forward, we can make cybersecurity positions in government more attractive by providing cyber professionals with unique opportunities to enhance their careers while they help protect our country’s security.

“That’s why I introduced the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act with Senator Hoeven. Our bipartisan legislation helps the federal government develop an integrated cybersecurity workforce and retain high-skilled employees by establishing a civilian personnel rotation program designed specifically for cyber professionals.  

“Based on similar joint duty programs for the military services and intelligence community, the Rotational Cyber Workforce Program will provide civilian employees in cyber roles opportunities to enhance their careers, broaden their professional experience and foster collaborative networks by experiencing and contributing to the cyber mission beyond their home agencies.  

“By offering these kinds of dynamic and rewarding opportunities, this legislation will help retain highly talented cyber professionals and strengthen our government’s own security by developing greater inter-agency awareness and collaboration. 

“I am pleased that this morning, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously approved this legislation and moved us closer towards closing the cybersecurity workforce gap.

“In addition to taking commonsense steps like we did today, Congress needs to look ahead and plan for long-term solutions to ensure that we always have a strong, competitive pool of cybersecurity talent to draw on.

“We need policies that encourage students of all ages and education levels to seek out STEM fields like computer science so they are prepared to fill these in-demand jobs and be our first line of defense against these emerging and evolving threats.

“I look forward to continuing to work with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to get this bill signed into law, and advance other commonsense legislation that strengthens our nation’s cyber capabilities and safeguards the weakest links in the cybersecurity chain from harm.”

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