VA’s first permanent chief data officer Kshemendra Paul leaving agency

Kshemendra Paul, the VA's first permanent chief data officer, is leaving the agency in November to join the Energy Department as an assistant inspector general.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ first permanent chief data officer is leaving the agency next month.

VA Chief Data Officer Kshemendra Paul, who also serves as the executive director for Data Governance and Analytics within the agency’s Office of Enterprise Integration, is leaving to become the Energy Department’s assistant inspector general for cybersecurity assessments and data analysis.

Paul, in an internal email to staff obtained by Federal News Network, said he will make the transition “over the next few weeks,” and that his final day at VA will be Nov. 7.

“My role will be to advance data analytics driving management excellence and integrity across Energy’s programs and operations including in the science, security, and energy-related areas,” Paul wrote in his Oct. 18 email.

Lisa Rosenmerkel will take over as acting VA chief data officer and executive director of the Office of Data Governance after Nov. 4.

Paul joined the VA in September 2019 to establish the CDO role at the agency.

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, signed into law earlier that year, required all agencies to name a CDO. Dat Tran, prior to Paul’s arrival, served as VA’s interim CDO.

Paul, in his email to staff, said the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration are maturing in their use of data governance and data analytics.

“The VA data and analytics community have come together to organize, lead change, and build momentum implementing the VA Data Strategy and Roadmap,” Paul wrote.  “The community is integrating interoperable data management and operational decision support at increasing scale. They are moving away from program, function, and regional data stove pipes; and are moving towards reusing a single trusted source of truth modeling individual Veterans Journeys across VA programs and Administrations.”

VA spokesman Terrence Hayes confirmed Paul’s departure to Federal News Network on Oct. 24.

“We will surely miss Kshemendra as he has been an instrumental leader at VA these past three years,” Hayes said in a statement.

VA released its first enterprise data strategy in January 2021. The strategy outlines how the agency will make its data a strategic asset throughout the department.

VA’s Data Governance Council estimates that about 10,000 employees across VA have “substantial participation in data management and data analytics,” but concludes the agency is in the early stages of sharing data insights beyond individual projects, programs or agency sub-components.

The strategy highlights how the VA needs higher-level data management capabilities to support the rollout of its Oracle-Cerner Electronic Health Record (EHR) and the adoption of the Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support (DMLSS), the Defense Health Agency’s multibillion-dollar medical supply chain management system.

The strategy also states how meeting its data management and data maturity goals is necessary to modernize financial and acquisition management systems through its Financial Management Business Transformation (FMBT) program.

“Data plays a key role in this transformation, and it is necessary to ensure that data management and analytic capabilities are aligned across the department,” the strategy states.

Paul, speaking at a FedInsider webinar in January 2021, said the VA is working with the Defense Department’s CDO on a “joint vision” for data and analytics.

Through these data insights, Paul said the VA is looking to improve its customer experience for veterans as they phase out of active military service.

“The key idea there is to recognize and build on the customer experience journey-mapping that VA has led on, and push that back into the service members’ journey, so we have an integrated view of the service member veteran’s journey — understanding the moments that matter [and] what’s the authoritative data we want to put to use securely to support those moments that matter,” Paul said in January 2021.

The agency in December 2020 issued its capstone Data Management Directive, which sets enterprise-wide policies for enabling the management of VA data as a strategic asset in a consistent, accurate, and holistic manner.

Paul told staff in his email that much work remains to meet the VA’s data goals, but said the “work will continue, consolidate, and thrive.”

“A highlight for me is to see the growth, engagement, and impact with the [Data Governance and Analytics] team. It is gratifying to see how DGA staff and leaders have themselves grown and are driving impact jointly with the Office of Information and Technology teammates supporting partners across VA,” Paul wrote.

Paul previously served as the Department of Homeland Security’s cloud action officer, where he helped coordinate cloud migration efforts and data center optimization.

He also led terrorism‐related information-sharing efforts at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2010 to 2016. Paul began his federal government career in 2005 as the chief enterprise architect at the Justice Department.

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