Why Is the FBI Having Trouble Recruiting Cybersecurity Experts?

Is it possible that cybersecurity experts don’t want to work for the FBI?

Here is an interesting story from Reuter’s about FBI hiring problems: “FBI understaffed to tackle cyber threats, says watchdog.”

As of January 2015, The Federal Bureau of Investigation had only hired 52 of the 134 computer scientists it was authorized to employ under the Justice Department’s Next Generation Cyber Initiative launched in 2012, the report showed.

Although cyber task forces have been set up at all 56 FBI field offices, five of them did not have a computer scientist assigned to them, the report by the Office of the Inspector General found.

Cyber security threats are among the Justice Department’s top priorities and there has been a slew of damaging cyberattacks against private companies and U.S. government agencies in the last couple of years.

The FBI budgeted $314 million on the program for the 2014 fiscal year, including 1,333 full-time employees, the report by the internal watchdog said.

So why wouldn’t any qualified computer scientist want to work for the FBI? The article suggests two reasons.

Lower salaries compared to the private sector made it difficult for the FBI to hire and retain cyber experts, the Office of the Inspector General said in the report.

It also said extensive background check procedures and drug tests excluded many otherwise qualified candidates.

For example, the FBI is unable to hire anyone who is found to have used marijuana in the previous three years or any other illegal drug in the past ten years, it said.

I have a hard time believing that the FBI would underpay a real “top priority.” I also find it hard to accept that drug tests are the issue.

Awhile back Mark Horne posted about how the NSA was having trouble recruiting talent because no one wanted to work for them. Spying on people and degrading cybersecurity standards does not endear one to cybersecurity experts.

Could it be that the FBI is disliked for the same reason? Could the Patriot Act be doing for the FBI what the NSA’s behavior was doing for it?