The most significant long-term challenge facing American and British cyber agencies is not China or Russia — it’s a shortage of cyber talent. This workforce deficit isn’t only affecting intelligence agencies. One recent study looked at 11 countries’ cyber skill shortages and extrapolated that the global deficit of qualified personnel sits at over four million unfilled positions and argues that the workforce needs to grow by a staggering 145 percent. Government agencies struggling to match the lucrative private sector salaries on offer naturally find themselves on the back foot. Cyber reserves, conscription models, and the use of volunteers are often touted as a panacea for boosting government recruits.
Yet, calls for a cyber reserve are not enough. Cyber reserve models are often impractical and fail to materially address nascent policy challenges. While cyber reserves can certainly play a limited role in improving security, states such as Britain and the United States should instead continue to focus on policy initiatives that are better aligned with their political cultures and operational requirements. Working with the private sector provides more scalable reinforcements and enables a coordinated approach to protecting what is often predominantly privately-owned infrastructure. Both approaches can certainly co-exist, yet robust public-private collaboration will often trump the whims of volunteers.
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