Cybersecurity Workforce: Actions Needed to Improve Cybercorps Scholarship for Service Program – Government Accountability Office

The CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Program—managed by the National Science Foundation, Office of Personnel Management, and Department of Homeland Security—requires recipients to work in government jobs for a period of time after graduation.
We found:
Our recommendations address these issues. Ensuring the cybersecurity of the nation—including addressing workforce needs—is on our High Risk List.
A photo of the US Capitol building behind an illustration of cybersecurity padlocks
The CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service Program provides participating institutions of higher education with scholarships to students in approved IT and cybersecurity fields of study. As a condition of receiving scholarships, students are required to enter agreements to work in qualifying full-time jobs upon graduation for a period equal in length to their scholarship. See the figure below for how recipients progress through the program.
Scholarship Recipients Progress through Three Phases in the CyberCorps® Program
Scholarship Recipients Progress through Three Phases in the CyberCorps® Program
GAO identified 19 selected legal requirements on how National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) are to manage the program. GAO found that NSF and OPM fully complied with 13 of the requirements and partially complied with six. The partially complied with requirements include the following:
NSF did not implement a risk management strategy and process to effectively identify, analyze, mitigate, and report on program risks and challenges. Absent such a strategy, NSF is not in a position to mitigate the adverse effects of risk events that do occur, which could negatively impact the accomplishment of program goals.
GAO has previously reported that federal agencies faced challenges in ensuring that they have an effective cybersecurity workforce. What is now known as the CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service Program—operated by NSF in conjunction with OPM and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—was established in 2000 to increase the supply of new government cybersecurity employees. Since its inception, NSF reports that the program has awarded about $621 million in scholarships to over 4,707 recipients.
GAO was asked to review the Scholarship for Service Program. GAO determined the extent to which (1) NSF and OPM are complying with program legal requirements, and (2) NSF has identified, analyzed, mitigated, and reported on program risks.
GAO assessed program documentation and processes against legal requirements and industry best practices. Further, GAO interviewed NSF, OPM, and DHS officials as well as personnel from selected institutions of higher education participating in the program.
GAO is making three recommendations to NSF and two to OPM to comply with legal requirements and implement a risk management strategy. Both agencies agreed with GAO’s recommendations.

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