In a Senate Appropriations Committee review of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request today, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas emphasized the importance of building resilience among the nation’s cybersecurity and the cyber workforce.

Mayorkas appeared before the Homeland Security Subcommittee on May 26, with President Biden’s final FY 2022 budget request expected to be released later this week. An April version of the proposal appropriated an additional $110 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), bumping its FY 2022 total to $2.1 billion.

“In the face of increasing cyber threats, it is critical that we promote resilience, not only within the Federal government, across public and private sectors in our critical infrastructure systems. The recent ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline serves as a stark example of this ever-present threat,” Mayorkas said in his opening testimony.

Mayorkas reiterated CISA’s role is leading DHS and interagency efforts to “defend against today’s threats and build a more secure and resilient future.” Additionally, Mayorkas mentioned that DHS is looking to strengthen the cyber capabilities of the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, Secret Service, and DHS’s Investigations team.

Mayorkas also noted the proposed DHS budget contains $618 million tagged for research, development, and innovation across DHS. Mayorkas said those funds would lay “a strong foundation to not just respond to the threats today but prepare for defense against the threats of tomorrow.”

Later in the hearing, Mayorkas was asked by ranking member Sen. Shelley Capito, R-W.V., about the DHS cyber talent management system (CTMS) that has been in the works since 2019.

Last October, DHS officials said the system was closer to going live, and DHS released a request for proposal (RFP) this March focused on finding someone to design and operate a Cybersecurity Compensation System for the CTMS. The system was expected to hit the Federal Register in late spring 2021, and the RFP expected an initial award date of late April but, to date, neither has happened.

While Mayorkas did not directly address when the CTMS is expected to go live, he is bullish on DHS’s ability to recruit talent in the cybersecurity arena. He mentioned two cyber sprints DHS was working on: one on ransomware, which began before the most recent attack, and the other focused on cybersecurity talent recruiting.

“We are going to have probably the greatest hiring surge in the cybersecurity talent domain that has ever occurred,” Mayorkas said. “I launched a partnership with the Girl Scouts of America. One, it’s never too young to start on a path of success to meet a critical national need. And we have a whole plan that I welcome the opportunity to share … about our focus on recruitment and retention of cybersecurity talent, including reforms to the pay scales so that we can better compete with the private sector.”

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.