The Government's Cybersecurity Talent Crisis
Cybersecurity talent is leaving the government for the private sector. Why?
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that went into effect earlier this year allocates $2 billion to improving cybersecurity in critical infrastructure and modernizing systems and software at federal, state, and local government agencies. While this funding has generated more demand for cybersecurity roles in the public sector, the attrition rate of government cybersecurity jobs has also been increasing significantly since 2021.
Where do these cybersecurity personnel go? A large share of ex-government cybersecurity talent leaves for roles in the Technology Services and Commercial Services sectors.
The strikingly high outflow rate of cybersecurity professionals from government entities is likely driven by the salary premium that the private sector offers. The average salary premium is as high as 14% in Electronic Technology companies, and 9% in Industrial Services companies.
On the other hand, the salary premium for Technology Services is low, even though the industry is the main destination for ex-government cybersecurity personnel. Therefore, they do not just consider salary -- they may value less tangible factors as well.
Employee sentiment can provide an indication of what these factors may be. Higher salary premiums are reflected in employees' ratings of compensation and benefits, which have decreased precipitously in the past two years. Moreover, Cybersecurity personnel may exit the government because they are dissatisfied with work-life balance, culture and values in the workplace, and career opportunities.
- The Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act allocates $2 billion to cybersecurity. While this funding is expected to increase the demand for cybersecurity roles at all levels of government, government entities are having a hard time retaining their cybersecurity talent.
- Cybersecurity personnel are leaving the government in search for higher salaries and better work-life balance, work environment, and career opportunities.
- Cybersecurity is critical for governments at a time when federal government data breaches have become more frequent. To maintain their human capital, government employers need to be able to offer competitive salaries and improve their work environments.