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Khanna, Mace introduce bill to strengthen federal cyber workforce following major hacks

May 28, 2021
In The News

Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) on Friday introduced legislation to strengthen the federal workforce in the wake of a year of escalating cyber threats and attacks. 

The Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act aims to build up the federal government’s cybersecurity by establishing a program to allow cybersecurity professionals to rotate through multiple federal agencies and enhance their expertise. 

The bill would encourage agency leaders to identify cybersecurity positions that can be rotated through government, and give the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) jurisdiction over the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program. 

It would also require OPM to distribute annual lists of open federal cybersecurity positions within the program to government employees, and allow the Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog, to assess the program.

The legislation was previously passed by the Senate in 2019, but failed to get a vote in the House. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) reintroduced legislation in the Senate in April.

The bill was introduced in the House on the heels of multiple major cyber incidents in recent months, including the SolarWinds hack, which involved Russian agents compromising nine federal agencies and at least 100 private sector groups. 

In addition, Microsoft in March announced vulnerabilities on its Exchange Server application that allowed hackers to access potentially thousands of organizations, while the federal government recently scrambled to respond to a ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline that led to temporary fuel shortages in several states. 

Khanna praised Peters’s current and previous work on the legislation, and told The Hill prior to the bill’s introduction this week that the legislation would help to address growing cyber threats by allowing the “best and brightest” to strengthen their skill sets at multiple agencies. 

“The bill will help tackle the issue by allowing the rotation through different agencies, so it will help us build our cyber capabilities,” Khanna told The Hill. 

Mace also pointed to the increasing pace of cyberattacks in underlining the need for the legislation. 

"In light of recent events, we've seen the importance of cybersecurity now more than ever,” Mace said in a statement provided to The Hill. “This program will equip not only our current generation of cybersecurity professionals but our next, ensuring America's grid is prepared for attack. To strengthen our cybersecurity workforce is to strengthen our national defense.”

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Both Khanna and Mace serve on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, where the bill will be referred for consideration. 

Khanna noted that the recent cyberattacks, which have led to bipartisan support for addressing the nation’s cybersecurity more broadly, would likely assist in moving the bill through committee. 

“We’ve had very great conversations with committee staff on a bipartisan basis, I’m quite hopeful that this will move out of committee,” Khanna said.