The nation faces a shortage of cyber workers at a time when threats have grown and a silent cyber war must enlist more troops, officials say.
“If you look at what’s going on with the cyber workforce there’s a huge shortage,” said Timothy Birt, Riverside Research information technology security administrator in Beavercreek. “And it’s really getting the younger generation to be interested in IT security and cyber to get them involved and trained up so that we have the resources because you can’t fight a war when you are undermanned.
“We are undermanned in this cyber war, there is no doubt about that,” he said.
That conclusion was borne out in an April 2015 report compiled by the nonpartisan and nonprofit Partnership for Public Service teamed with defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton that found “there is a nationwide shortage of highly qualified cyber security experts, and the federal government in particular has fallen behind in the race for this talent – individuals who are essential to protecting our nation’s critical public and private information technology infrastructure.”
The report faulted the federal government for a lack of a comprehensive strategy to recruit and retain cyber talent, the same conclusion a study reached six years earlier.
“The cyber talent crisis has persisted long enough,” the report said. “Our nation is at risk as the number and sophistication of cyber-attacks continue to grow, but the government has failed to act with urgency.”
The Pentagon counts about 5,000 cyber operators with a targeted goal of nearly 1,200 more by the end of 2018. The federal workforce has roughly 93,000 cyber employees, the 2015 report concluded.
“There’s a lack of a skilled workforce in some areas to deal with these (cyber) areas,” said Deborah Gross, executive director of the Dayton Area Defense Contractors Association.
The employment trend for a too-small cyber workforce is growing, however. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Studies has projected an 18 percent growth rate among information security analysts between 2014 to 2024.
The jobs are high-paying with a projected median salary of $90,120, federal statistics show.
The Dayton Development Coalition has targeted building the Dayton region into a cyber “center of gravity” with links to universities, industry and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said Maurice McDonald, the Coalition’s executive vice president of aerospace and defense.
The goal is to attract more cyber industry start-ups and more students to fill workforce demand and “to be a national leader when it comes to cyber and cyber security.” he said.
Finding experienced cyber workers in the Dayton region is a challenge, a company executive says.
“Experience is hard to find right now,” Jeff Ochester, AES Corp. manager of physical and cyber infrastructure security, told an information security conference this month in Dayton; AES is the parent company of Dayton Power & Light Co.
Sean Creighton, president of the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE), said the Dayton region “reflects the shortage that we are seeing nationally.”
Boosting cyber education in the Dayton region to produce a skilled workforce is a national priority.
Last September, SOCHE collected a $200,000 federal grant to boost cyber education initiatives in the Cincinnati-Dayton Cyber Corridor, a consortium of academic institutions, companies and Wright-Patterson. SOCHE was one of five in the nation chosen to receive the grant among 65 proposals in 35 states.
Locally, educators are involved in a push to spark interest in middle and high school students in cyber career fields.
A study recently concluded the Dayton area has 3.28 cyber-trained graduates for every cyber job, but many graduates were expected to relocate outside of the region, authorities say.
The analysis showed a bump in growth in information security analysts jobs in the area —- from 150 jobs in 2015 to 207 in 2025, but Creighton says he expects “exponential growth” in the region in cyber security, intelligence and information technology jobs. In the Dayton region overall, the study forecast a 14 percent jump in information technology jobs to 16,901 by 2025.
“We’re really trying to position our region as sort of a cyber hub of talent to support industries’ needs,” he said.
The Wright State University Aerospace Professional Development Center compiled the research using JobsOhio data with analysis assistance from Richard Stock at University of Dayton’s Business Research Group, according to Vella Inc.