Federal cyber workers can now apply for positions through a rotational program that allows them to temporarily work at another agency. The objective is to spread cyber expertise across the federal government.
More than 50 postings across 12 agencies are currently open on the Office of Personnel Management’s Open Opportunities platform. Open roles include cyber defense incident responder, IT project manager, and cybersecurity specialist, and range from six- to 12-month details. The postings represent roughly 65 rotational opportunities, as some are for more than one position, an OPM spokesperson said in an email.
“I think it’s really a win-win for the agency and the employee,” Jason Barke, deputy associate director for strategic workforce planning on OPM’s Workforce Policy and Innovation team, said of the program. In an interview with FedScoop last week, Barke said that employees who participate in the program could benefit by learning new skills and experiencing what it’s like to work at a different agency.
The Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program was authorized by a bill signed into law by President Joe Biden in June 2022, and is intended to advance federal cyber employees’ careers and promote integration and coordination of cyber practices between and within agencies.
The launch of the program comes as the Biden administration focuses on bolstering the cyber workforce in the U.S., including within the government. Strengthening the federal cyber workforce was among the four pillars of a national strategy the administration released in July.
OPM plans to work with the Chief Information Officers Council, the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, and the White House Office of the National Cyber Director to let people know about the available positions, Barke said. They plan to get people started in rotations in January.
The hope is that agencies will “be excited and let their employees or cyber employees go on these rotations and go out and start gaining this experience,” Barke said.
An employee is eligible for the program only if they are already in a “cyber-coded” agency position, have been approved for participation, were rated at least “fully successful” on their most recent performance review, and have the right clearance level required for the position they’d like to rotate into, according to March guidance from OPM.
The program will also give OPM a look into “where agencies’ needs are, and maybe where we can start thinking about, ‘how do we have more of a long-term strategy to support them on some of these areas that they may have needs?’” Barke said.
One possible hurdle is the workload that rotating workers might leave behind at their original agency, especially amid an ongoing shortage of cyber professionals within the federal government.
Barke acknowledged that as a “challenge” and suggested that agencies could swap, have another person rotate in to replace that person, or balance the workload between other people in the office.
It’s a “little bit of a tradeoff,” said Barke, who acknowledged that some workloads may need to increase to make sure that an employee can participate in a rotation. “But then what they bring back, hopefully, you know, will be that enhancement to the agency.”
As far as location, it appears most of the positions available currently have a virtual option. Barke said that’s something they left up to the agencies.
Going forward, the length of the rotations could be more varied. While the law says the rotations should be for six months to a year, Barke said there could be flexibility for shorter positions if needed. “There’s still a lot of value even in shorter or longer rotations that, you know, we would just need to work out between the two agencies,” he said.
Eventually, OPM is required to put together a report analyzing the efficacy of the program, according to the original legislation.