DHS is rebalancing cyber support contracts

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The Department of Homeland Security will adjust the ratio of federal to contract staff supporting its network operations security center (NOSC) by recompeting some contracts, most likely starting in March.

Existing contracts may not continue in their current forms as DHS continues to consolidate its security and network operations centers with an initial focus on agencies lacking robust SOC environments, says CIO Karen Evans.

Overhauling support contracts is part of a broader effort within the department to ensure its workforce has the skillsets to respond to constantly changing cybersecurity threats.

“We’re really asking for our industry partners to work with us on this next evolution to be able to go forward,” Evans said during the AFFIRM Cybersecurity Summit last week. “It’s not saying, ‘Hey the services you were providing aren’t of quality.’ It’s saying, ‘Hey we’re changing the blend of feds to contractors to meet this next evolution of services that we want to provide to the department.”

Central to the personnel overhaul is the Cyber Talent Management System (CTMS) that DHS is implementing to compete with the private sector. The 2014 Border Patrol Pay Reform Act ordered the system’s creation and exempted the department from many existing Title 5 restrictions for cyber hiring and compensation.

Evans said she’s working with Chief Human Capital Officer Angela Bailey to publish all-new Title 6 rules allowing CTMS participants to express their interests, take cyber assessments and be matched with available jobs in areas like forensics analysis.

Even a high school graduate can take the assessments, get hired, receive pay commensurate with the private sector, and be placed on a career path and education plan while still receiving federal benefits, Evans said.

“That’s why we have to publish these rules,” Evans said. “You’re not in Title 5.”

That doesn’t mean that DHS isn’t hiring, just that it needs to smooth the transition from Title 5 to 6 rules, Evans said.

The department has resumes from U.S. Cyber Challenge participants and will soon make two continuous announcements classifying them into either the General Schedule 5-12 or 13-15 career path, Evans said. Those classifications will serve as a bridge to Title 6 hiring.

“When we get resumes we’ll be able to work with the classification depending on where they are,” Evans said. “That’s the traditional way.”

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AFFIRM, Angela Bailey, Cybersecurity, Cyber Talent Management System, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Karen Evans, network operations security center (NOSC), Title 6, U.S. Cyber Challenge, workforce
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