The Coalition Government is to channel funds from its £650m National Cyber Security Programme into making good a shortfall in the number of internet specialists required to combat online information security threats.

Concerns about the inability of GCHQ to retain enough cyber experts were raised earlier this year in the Security and Intelligence Committee’s annual report. The Committee had urged the intelligence agency, which specialises in electronic surveillance, to investigate what might be done to improve the situation and recommended that the Cabinet Office consider whether a system of bonuses for specialist skills, similar to those employed in the US, should be introduced.

Now in a just-published response, the government has basically agreed. It said: “The Cabinet Office and GCHQ are both supporters of initiatives such as the Cyber Security Challenge, which promotes careers in cyber security via annual competitions and events, while providing advice and opportunities to individuals who wish to start a career in the information security field.”

It added that policies for recruiting and retraining specialist personnel were the responsibility of individual departments, but noted: “Under the National Cyber Security Programme, the Government will support individual departments and agencies in developing cyber security training and skills programmes for their staff.”

The Coalition also announced that three security agencies were to set up a single unified mechanism for hiring interim IT specialists and contractors, after the Security and Intelligence Committee expressed concern about increasing levels of expenditure on outside contractors.

The security agencies were likewise working on a joint IT strategy, the Government said, after the Committee warned that closing an IT back-up site at Oakley could leave GCHQ exposed if its primary site were to be put out of action.

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