This expedited hiring authority, known as Schedule A, removes some of the barriers to federal hiring practices. For example, it will allow the Air Force to hire cybersecurity pros without posting and publicizing the positions.
Schedule A has is most often associated with lowering barriers to hiring disabled workers and certain specified jobs, but can also be used to fill positions where "a critical hiring need exists," according to the federal regulation governing its use.
Gaps exist in cybersecurity talent across the government, according to experts. "A critical element of a robust cybersecurity strategy is having the right people at every level to identify, build and staff the defenses and responses," the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote last week in a pre-release of a major cyber-workforce study. "And that is, by many accounts, the area where we are the weakest."
However, while Schedule A enables agencies to cut through red tape and fill critical positions quickly, cybersecurity hiring is also a sensitive matter in an era where Congress and the public are increasingly placing a demand on quality.
Schedule A cuts both ways, because it removes some of the competitive nature of the federal hiring process, and thus brings with it risks, for example, of hiring unqualified individuals.
"The government hiring process isn't exactly the best or most speedy, so this can be a good way to get qualified people on board quickly," says Marc Noble, director of government affairs for cybersecurity credentialing and education firm (ISC)2. "However, sometimes it works very well, and sometimes it doesn't work well at all."
The Air Force is opening up a number of specific positions under Schedule A, including those involved with cyber risk analysis, cyber strategy, incident response, malware and vulnerability analysis and detection, "cyber-exercise facilitation," network and systems engineering, enterprise architecture, intelligence analysis, and "cyber-related infrastructure interdependency analysis."
The new workers will fill positions in the U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and the 24th Air Force, which is the Air Force component of the overall U.S. Cyber Command.
While Schedule A doesn't require the Air Force to publicize open positions, applicants can still apply for jobs on USAJOBs.gov, the federal government's hiring site.