Navy links cyber workforce training to commercial certifications

Tuesday - 3/27/2012, 5:14am EDT

Terry Halvorsen, chief information officer, Department of Navy

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It's getting a little easier for the Navy's cyber workforce to prove its qualifications.

The Department of the Navy now will give the same credence to military training as it does for commercial certifications.

"As the services have changed their IT/cyber training to meet the emerging requirements, we had in fact begin to cover many of the topics in great detail that we were requiring civilian or commercial certifications for," said Terry Halvorsen, DoN chief information officer. "What this new memo does is say where services you have met the requirements of those civilian certifications inside your standard training, you may now use that to meet the commercial certification requirements."

Halvorsen said one such example is A+ certification, which is typically how computer technicians show competency.

"They are now mostly covered in the basic IT training we provide for Marines and sailors," he said. "It didn't make mission or fiscal sense as we have adapted to continue to pay commercial certifications for those things we were already teaching and frankly can internally certify we meet those requirements."

Halvorsen issued a memo in February detailing the new acceptance policy.

Cyber workforce is a priority, but struggles continue

The government has been focusing on the cyber workforce for the last 10 years.

Terry Halvorsen, CIO, Navy (Navy photo)

The Homeland Security Department and the National Institute of Standards and Technology issued a draft framework under the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) to standardize cybersecurity work throughout the government.

The NICE framework is a dictionary of cybersecurity work, divided into seven categories from operating networks to analyzing cyber threats. Together, those categories contain 31 job functions linked to more than 1,000 knowledge, skills and abilities.

The Office of Personnel Management gave agencies the ability to use direct hirer authority for cybersecurity workers.

Inside the Defense Department, cyber workers are in great demand.

The Air Force, for instance, has about 10,000 employees in the cyber field. But Gen. Bill Lord, the service's CIO, said the workers need to be better trained.

Despite this focus, the Government Accountability Office found in December agencies continue to struggle to meet the needs of the cyber workforce, specifically with a lack of standardized training.

This lack of standardized training is one of the reasons the Navy is changing its policy.

Requirements haven't changed

Halvorsen said as the Navy and Marine Corps have adapted their training programs to include more of what the commercial certification curriculum offers.

"If we have military training that meets the standard — we haven't changed the standard and we are not lowering the standard — but if we have military training that is equivalent to that standard, let's take credit for it and we don't need to pay for the civilian certification on top of that," he said.

Halvorsen said the Navy and Marines Corps will continue to track the training and education with the same systems they use now. He said DoD does a good job at ensuring veterans can specifically describe the training they have received so civilian employers or colleges and universities understand their qualifications.

"We are very effective at giving the veterans the data that says this is the detailed training they had and here is where it meets up in the civilian world so that they can get college equivalent or technical certifications that may be required in some of the trades," Halvorsen said. "We are adding some of these commercial certifications to that process. As our training changed, we noticed we were included more of that in the basic military training."

But, he said, it's up to the civilian employer or university to accept the training and certifications.

"Our history is in most cases, when military departments have said this is equivalent training, and they can show the documentation, it is very widely accepted," Halvorsen said.

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