When someone says they shop at Costco, you can likely assume they are either: 1) a member of the public seeking lower cost options to everyday expenses 2) a member of the retail community seeking to apply margins to low cost products. Either way, shopping at Costco or any other wholesale warehouse seems to have become a means of survival for those weathering the last few years of the infamous economic “downturn” and a symbol of consumer adaptation.

In a federal technology-focused e-newsletter this week, I was humored by use of the term ‘Costco Federal’ when referencing the strategy and tactics some agencies are using to procure the latest IT products. While the popular wholesale warehouse chain is not, to my knowledge, currently competing for large government IT procurements, the term undoubtedly demonstrates a resounding anticipation of the need to “save money” as we enter the next fiscal year. Given the strained economy, coupled with the uncertainties of an approaching election year and headlines like “Budget austerity is coming — what should you do?” , I think it is safe to conclude that today’s IT purchasing decisions are being greatly influenced by a knowledge of the inevitable — budgets WILL be cut.

In contrast, when we see headlines like, “Cybersecurity could be a bright spot in otherwise flat IT budgets,” we unfortunately need to be careful not to assume that ‘information security personnel’ weighs equally to ‘information security technology’ when it comes to budget consideration. While I appreciate the efforts and influence of a few key government leaders who are publicly recognizing the need to increase cybersecurity funding despite fiscal constraints, such as outgoing Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, who maintains that “We need to trim modernization programs but preserve increases in key areas such as cybersecurity …,” I believe that now is the time for leaders to be fighting for funding increase in the area of the cyber workforce.

In my opinion, we enter dangerous territory when we start discussing potential pay cuts and federal workforce reduction as a means of weathering the economic storm and reducing the $1.2 trillion deficit – specifically as it pertains to federal information security personnel. One of the many serious considerations being proposed by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a.k.a. the Super Committee) is a freeze on federal pay rates and a reduction of the federal workforce by 10 percent. As the leader of the largest group of information security professionals in the world, I am witnessing increased cyber threats and the demand for skilled information security professionals at a global all-time high and the ability to achieve compliance at an all time low. Given this, I have to ask, “Is now really the time to reduce the federal information security workforce?!?”

In the DoD and other environments, cyber technology is given budgetary precedence as a “needs-based” and justified expenditure. My question to the Super Committee as they prepare their recommendations for public release later this month is, “Does the federal IT security workforce qualify as a “needs-based” expenditure and will we see exception in this area to a proposed federal workforce reduction?” There are exceptions to every rule and in the case of skilled cybersecurity personnel, our nation cannot afford to save money.