Patriots wanted: DISA and JFHQ-DODIN in the fight for talent across the cyber domain

by Devon L. Suits
Office of Strategic Communication and Public Affairs
November 15, 2021

The Defense Information Systems Agency is refining the way it acquires and retains personnel within the cyber domain to remain in the fight for talent against other civilian, government and military organizations.

According to a release by the New York Times, close to 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs will remain unfilled by 2022, said Jennifer Augustine, director of the Office of Strategic Outreach and Talent Acquisition. 

A review by MIT Technology also concluded that fewer than one in four applicants are considered qualified for a given cybersecurity role, she added.

To ensure that DISA and the Joint Force Headquarters–Department of Defense Information Network can connect and protect the warfighter from now and into the future, the agency must evolve to acquire and retain highly qualified personnel across several fields, to include cybersecurity engineering, computer science, mission assurance, artificial intelligence, big data and information technology, Augustine said.

Augustine, who spoke during the 2021 AFCEA TechNet Cyber conference held from Oct. 27-28, outlined DISA's push to move beyond traditional recruitment efforts and employ a proactive approach to identify and attract candidates.

To brand DISA as an "employer of choice," her office must work to establish pipelines and open relationships with academic, veteran and professional organizations, she said.

Augustine explained that a study by the Fors Marsh Group polled high school and college students to assess their understanding of the DOD civilian workforce. Over 65 percent of participants were unaware of federal career opportunities, with another 55 percent unaware of the process of how to apply.

"The Defense Information Systems Agency is the most important organization that college students have never heard about," she said. "There are movies about the National Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security, and everybody knows the name Microsoft."

Moving forward, the strategic outreach office will work with individual universities to guarantee internships through educational partnering agreements. Augustine hopes to build brand awareness to fill civilian job opportunities through continued communication with DISA's target audiences.

However, working with academia cannot be a "one-way street," Augustine said. 

Through sustained relationships with university partners, the outreach office can offer advice on cyber-related curriculum to ensure students are not disadvantaged upon graduation. The agency can also provide opportunities to engage and interact with subject matter experts or DISA senior leaders.

"It is a challenge to educate students on a mass scale about the opportunities DISA and the DOD can offer," added Augustine, whose "team is also formulating ways to promote digital and cyber literacy with local and regional high schools — a primary source for summer hires and interns."

"The goal is to partner with industry, federal agencies and academia on a national cyber initiative that inculcates a mandatory curriculum for digital citizenry across middle and high schools," she said.

With a national initiative in place, students can learn individual cyber hygiene through proper cybersecurity practices. Additionally, individuals will receive an introduction to the DISA mission.

"We are focused on reaching out and recruiting patriots that drive our mission, enable change and support the warfighter," Augustine said.


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