OPM makes competing for cybersecurity talent a priority


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The Office of Personnel Management’s policy and human resources shops are focused on improving the agency’s personnel system to outcompete those of other agencies in hiring cybersecurity talent, according to Director Kiran Ahuja.

Ahuja recently signed off on “critical” pay increases for a couple of cyber positions to keep pace with other agencies, she said, during a National Academy of Public Administration webinar Friday.

Pressure to hire more cyber professionals only increased after President Biden issued supply chain and cybersecurity executive orders requiring agencies to get a better handle on where their hardware and software comes from and implement zero-trust security architectures.

“We know this particular occupation is in huge demand across all the different agencies,” Ahuja said. “There’s just a challenge around equalizing the playing field.”

OPM also has an obligation to ensure other organizations can hire top talent as well, which is why the agency is preparing to launch a USAJobs.gov website for key infrastructure hiring governmentwide. The Infrastructure Implementation Task Force — established by executive order on Nov. 15 to coordinate implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — includes OPM for this reason.

Agency leadership is further considering the feasibility of creating a centralized portal on USAJobs.gov for publicizing federal and third-party internship and fellowship programs onboarding early career talent. That’s in addition to a Workforce of 2030 initiative that would expand the Future of Work website among other efforts.

The success of all of these endeavors will hinge on OPM’s ability to modernize its IT systems, Ahuja said.

OPM wants to update its retirement calculator and pilot a retirement application, and the agency submitted a Technology Modernization Fund project proposal to upgrade its health benefits comparison tool so people can shop around for plans more easily.

Backend IT systems aren’t readily apparent to OPM’s customers but also badly need security upgrades likely to come later, Ahuja said.

“We’re still sitting on a host of legacy systems and so slowly making the move to more cloud-based systems within our agency,” she said. “That’s just going to take time to do.”

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Cybersecurity, hiring, Kiran Ahuja, National Academy of Public Administration, Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Technology Modernization Fund, USAJobs.gov