DoD Seeks To Stay Ahead Of Cybersecurity Threats, Acting CIO Says

By Lisa Ferdinando

Staying ahead of the cybersecurity threat requires the Defense Department to hire the best people, partner with industry and practice good cyber hygiene, the DoD acting chief information officer said Thursday.

John A. Zangardi delivered the keynote luncheon address at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s Defense Cyber Operations Symposium in Baltimore.

“We can’t solve today’s complex problems with yesterday’s thinking or technologies,” he said. “As all of you are well aware, IT innovation today more often comes from industry, and not government.”

But technology alone will not solve the cybersecurity challenges, he said, noting that the issues require an exceptional workforce, a shared commitment throughout the department and collaboration with private industry.

The Defense Department tracks cyber habits across the agency through the DoD cyber scorecard, he said. Good cyber habits are critical in keeping the networks safe, he explained. “The foundation for a resilient cybersecurity posture is cyber hygiene,” he said.

Seeking the Best in Cyber Excepted Service

For DoD to attract the best cybersecurity professionals, Zangardi told the symposium audience, Congress granted the department new authorities to hire cyber professionals under what is known as the Cyber Excepted Service, an enterprisewide approach for managing civilian cyber professionals across the department.

The Cyber Excepted Service will provide more flexibility in DoD hiring procedures, allowing DoD components to source candidates with more options and post jobs clearly identified as Cyber Excepted Service in a range of locations, he said.

“It will also leverage a market-based pay structure to deliver more targeted and competitive compensation packages for critical civilian personnel,” he said, adding that he expects the department will issue the personnel policies for the Cyber Excepted Service in July or August.

Cyber Professionals of Tomorrow

Zangardi highlighted the importance of inspiring the next generation of cyber talent, through mentoring and by encouraging children’s interest.

“The future will require the development of a well-rounded workforce that is proficient in the basics, and the basics to me are reading and writing and math — literacy and mathematics,” he said. “These are enablers for the next generation of cyber talent.”

Building the cyber force of the future includes creating a strong work ethic, developing perseverance and helping children understand that failure is a part of learning, Zangardi said.

“As the department and other employers struggle to attract and retain talent, a larger pool of talent is crucial to our nation’s future competitiveness and security,” he added.


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