IG sees progress in FBI’s Next Gen Cyber Initiative, but challenges remain

IG sees progress in FBI’s Next Gen Cyber Initiative, but challenges remain

FBI’s Next Generation Cyber Initiative has faced a range of shortcomings and challenges since its 2012 debut, but a new audit report urges one immediate remedy:  Hire some good people.

The Next Gen Cyber Initiative is an ongoing, multi-year strategy for the way the FBI addresses cyber threats. The agency has narrowed the focus of the Cyber Division to cyber intrusions since they pose the greatest national security threat and now emphasizes prediction and prevention rather than reaction.

In doing so, the FBI planned to focus on strengthening the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force (NCIJTF), advancing the capability of the FBI cyber workforce, expanding the intrusion investigative-Cyber Task Forces in all field offices and supporting information sharing and collaboration with the private sector.

While the FBI has made notable strides, the report released by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General found persistent staffing challenges. The FBI failed to hire 52 computer scientists of the 134 it was authorized to, and five of the 56 FBI field offices remain without an assigned computer scientist in their local Cyber Task Force.

Though the NCIJTF has improved information sharing among members, the report found that the task force does not have a process for measuring the timeliness of which information is shared and still faces hurdles with private-sector collaboration.

Additionally, the auditors found the FBI has trouble in recruitment and retention of highly qualified candidates, which they attributed to the extensive background investigation process and the private sector’s ability to pay more for qualified workers.  

The FBI is also finding it difficult to attract “external participants” like state and local law enforcement agencies to its local Cyber Task Forces.

To tackle the staffing challenges, the DOJ recommended the FBI create more efficient strategies for recruitment, like using external partners and targeting cyber agents. The FBI should also make stronger efforts to hire Cyber Task Force detailees by providing more information about available resources and partner agency participation.

To strengthen private sector collaboration, the report recommended developing metrics and implementing machine-to-machine capabilities to handle timely data-sharing with the private sector.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.

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