As the new Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment, Kshemendra Paul must be part lobbyist, part technologist and part evangelist.
Experts say it will take all of these skills to find success in insular community.
“It’s always a big mistake to think of these things in terms of short term opportunities because none of that will keep people’s attention to get it done in New York minute,” says James Carafano, deputy director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation.
“These are things that really are years and decades and really generational investments. It’s really about working the floor, getting out there and getting with people, and developing that trust and confidence in a relationship. You have to have a clear vision of where you’re going, you have to be realistic about it and then you have to go out and sell it. I would say take the long term view, take a non-partisan view, this is legacy investment in the way government does business.”
Jim Dempsey, a member of the Markle Task Force on National Security in the Information Age, says Paul faces many of the same challenges his boss, the Director of National Intelligence, does.
“Both are responsible for things they don’t have control over,” Dempsey says. “He will be responsible for herding agencies without the ability to control them. On one hand, Paul has to be honest about his challenges, and secondly, he has to be able to work with the DNI, Office of Management and Budget, White House processes in order to move agencies to do things up until now they have been reluctant to do because of turf and other reasons.”
Dempsey, Carafano and other experts believe Paul is the right person for the job.
The White House appointed Paul May 28 to take over for Ambassador Thomas McNamara, who retired last July. Paul starts June 7 after spending the last three years as the Office of Management and Budget’s chief architect. An OMB official says an acting chief architect will be named when Paul leaves, and the position will be advertised to find a replacement.
“I think it’s an outstanding choice not only because he’s competent and a good manager, but also because he’s absolutely committed to getting things done,” says Paul Wormeli, executive director of the Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute, a non-profit industry organization that focuses on the development of new standards and practices in the justice, public safety and homeland security sectors. “He helped get the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) out of the dark ages when he was at Justice. It also shows the recognition of the White House of important issues like enterprise architecture.”
Leslie Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, says chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is pleased the White House finally named someone.
“The Senator hopes the President will allow the Program Manager to take a leadership role in ongoing efforts to improve terrorism-related information sharing within the federal government and with state, local, and private sector partners,” she says. “The Senator looks forward to working with Kshemendra Paul on these efforts.”
Wormeli and others say many wondered if the White House would even name a new program manager.
A Senate staff member, who requested anonymity because they did not get permission to talk on the record about this issue, says leaving the position vacant for 10 months left some to wonder if the Obama administration would move these efforts in the White House.
The staff member says by naming Paul, the administration is sending a message about the need to focus on technical standards and other operational issues that the White House doesn’t normally do.
“Things still have been moving forward over last 10 months and they have continued to make progress, but where we have had concerns and a lack of clarity about what the administration’s long term vision for the PM-ISE is and how it would be moving forward,” the staff member says.
Congress will receive more information about the progress the ISE is making when the Government Accountability Office issues a report on how specific homeland security agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, State, Defense and Justice have implemented the information sharing framework. The report is expected to be made public later this year.
In the meantime, Paul has plenty of challenges.
Dempsey says he should start looking at what the real role of the ISE is.
“What is this Information Sharing Environment, what is this program and what is its relationship to many other information sharing activities within the intelligence community, most notably the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)?” Dempsey says. “His first job is that of defining what it is he is doing. His second major task is being able to manage and direct the activities of other agencies, other than his own.”
Carafano adds that while the ISE has made some progress, it has floundered at times.
“He has to perform in a leadership role by getting stakeholder buy-in from other federal agencies, and it has to be much more than a top down ‘you must do this’ order from the President, which hardly ever happens,” Carafano says. “You are a lot better off getting in there with the leaders, convincing the leaders that this is something they need to think is important and something they need to integrate into their programs. So getting the attention of leaders in the organizations and getting them to voluntarily buy into that is really valuable expectation.”
Carafano says it’s all about managing expectations, which is about having realistic timelines and budgets and ensuring leadership involvement.
“The biggest mistake is to think of ISE as an IT program,” he says. “It does have major implications for IT, but there are larger issues than that. If you are just cranking out rules and that is all you do, then it becomes shelfware and people ignore that. You need to get buy-in and that comes from educating people. You have to educate the right people. You have to reach the people who will make a difference and educate them on duties and responsibilities and get them to want to do this.”
Dempsey adds Paul will need to raise the level of the ISE up to “first tier” issues.
He says for too long the ISE worked on secondary information sharing challenges.
“He needs to ask some hard questions, starting with what is ISE and how do entities like the NCTC and how do directives like ISD 501 fit into the concept of the ISE?” Dempsey says. “My advice would be he needs to avoid getting dragged into the nitty-gritty of technology, or questions of technical standards or information sharing standards for now. Those are important, but what is really needed is the reaffirmation of the vision and the buy-in of the intelligence community of that vision. I think in the past there was genuine verbal and genuine acceptance of the vision but the implementation was lacking. Too often, people reverted to their own sandboxes and that is what he has to break through.”
Wormeli adds that Paul also should look at expanding ISE approach to non-terrorism information sharing. He says the health industry’s use of NIEM is a good example of the benefits the methodology brings.
The Senate staff member adds the finance industry and the energy industry also could benefit from the ISE’s approach.
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