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By Reuters

The FBI is struggling to attract computer scientists to its cybersecurity program mainly due to low pay, a report by the U.S. Department of Justice showed, highlighting weaknesses in a flagship initiative to tackle growing cyber threats. As of January 2015, The Federal Bureau of Investigation had only hired 52 of the 134 computer scientists it was authorized to employ under the Justice Department's Next Generation Cyber Initiative launched in 2012, the report showed. Although cyber task forces have been set up at all 56 FBI field offices, five of them did not have a computer scientist assigned to them, the report by the Office of the Inspector General found.

Cyber security threats are among the Justice Department's top priorities and there has been a slew of damaging cyberattacks against private companies and U.S. government agencies in the last couple of years. The FBI budgeted $314 million on the program for the 2014 fiscal year, including 1,333 full-time employees, the report said. Lower salaries compared to the private sector made it difficult for the FBI to hire and retain cyber experts, the audit found.

The report also said extensive background check procedures and drug tests excluded many otherwise qualified candidates. For example, the FBI is unable to hire anyone who is found to have used marijuana in the previous three years or any other illegal drug in the past 10 years, it said.

Related: Homeland Security Gives Cyber Crimes Center a Major Upgrade