DHS cyber warriors will train with private sector

Karinda Washington and Russell Deyo, from DHS, at the Exemplar launch. Photo by INSA.

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A handful of personnel from the Department of Homeland Security working in cybersecurity, engineering and other scientific and technical fields will get free training from the private sector under a new pilot program unveiled Monday.

‘The opportunity to share ideas, share knowledge, helps us all achieve great success,’ DHS Undersecretary for Management Russell Deyo said at the launch of Exemplar, the new DHS pilot program that will place 10 mid- and senior-level officials from its Science and Technology, and National Protection and Programs Directorates in training slots.

‘We require and depend on joint partnerships’ like Exemplar, he told the launch event, put together by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance — a trade association and thought leadership institute for intelligence and homeland security contractors.

INSA President Chuck Alsup called Exemplar ‘the type of initiative that is a win, win, win — for government, for industry and for the country.’

Deyo said Exemplar grew out of an existing initiative, under which executives from private sector companies got to spend time working at DHS. ‘There was a request for a reverse Loaned Executive Program,’ he said, adding that the program had been stood up ‘extraordinarily quickly’ in just one year.

The program officer for the Exemplar, Karinda Washington, found the necessary legal authorities in a 1958 law, the Government Employees Training Act, ‘by using Google,’ Deyo joked.

Washington herself explained that companies would have to apply to host the a trainee for six months. The applicant companies will be vetted to ensure they are suitable, and then the opportunities will be posted for relevant DHS staff. There will be two tracks — one managerial, for senior staff, and one operational for junior personnel.

The kind of exchange represented by the program is ‘not just for homeland security but for our government workforce’ as a whole, added DHS Undersecretary for Science and Technology Reginald Brothers.

Once trained, staff have to return to work for DHS for at least three times the length of the assignment afterward, Washington said. According to an announcement on the department’s website, the selectees will be ‘exceptional employees expected to assume increased science and technology and cybersecurity responsibilities in the future.’

The six areas in which opportunities are being sought are cybersecurity; engineering; multi-hazard mitigation and infrastructure investment; physical and cybersecurity integration; research and development; and scientific research.

‘We mean to have folks out on the program within three months,’ Washington said.

The urgency was driven in part by the need to get the pilot approved into a program of record before the senior officials at the department all leave during the transition.

‘We’re trying to get the pilot finished in time before our administration changes over,’ she said.

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