Senior Defense Department officials told House members on Tuesday they are taking additional steps to boost cybersecurity workforce ranks at the Pentagon through means including the Cyber Excepted Service (CES) personnel system authorized in 2016 that allows DoD to expedite and simplify recruiting and hiring for civilian cyber professionals.

Testifying at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, subcommittee Chairman Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., remarked that “workforce is the pinnacle of IT modernization and reform,” and asked DoD CIO Dana Deasy for an update on the department’s efforts to boost its cyber workforce.

Deasy said that hiring for U.S. Cyber Command and DoD’s CIO Office using CES authority was “well on its way,” but that other parts of the department needed to head down the same path.

The CIO also said that the cyber workforce equation is not only about “the volume of people we need,” but also relates to their competencies, and said training needs to happen at a faster rate.

Marine Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall, deputy principal cyber advisor at DoD, told subcommittee members that his office has put together a request that asks for an increased cyber workforce inside the Pentagon. He added that DoD also needs to “pick up the pace on how we do security clearances.”

Deasy and Lisa Hershman, acting chief management officer (CMO) at DoD, discussed in general terms the larger IT modernization goals at the department, with Hershman describing DoD’s current IT and business systems environment as “extremely complex.” She said it was their collective responsibility to reverse that situation by, among other steps, eliminating redundant systems, streamlining procurement, and enabling business process integration.

Deasy said he was working with Hershman to execute the larger IT modernization agenda and eliminate legacy systems.

“We are collectively looking at what’s most important, what are the biggest risks and vulnerabilities, and how we can solve those,” Hershman said.

Surveying DoD’s annual IT budget which tops $40 billion, Deasy said, “the question is are we really getting the most out of every dollar.”

Rep. Langevin said he was interested in how the CMO’s authorities were taking hold alongside those of the agency’s CIO. “We are very interested in how this works well together,” he said, adding, “Not just the personalities, but so that it is institutionalized…and to make sure there is continuity.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.