On April 15, two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon killing three people. Instantly, federal, state and local law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies needed to share information.
Video surveillance, text and call histories, social media data, photographs and other information were shared along various platforms to pin down the type of bombs used and pictures of two at-large suspects.
By the end of the week, police had captured one suspect and killed another in a shootout.
The man who facilitated the movement of data between agencies through infrastructure, best practices and strategy is Kshemendra Paul.
Paul’s job title is as complicated as it sounds; he is the program manager of the Information Sharing Environment for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Paul’s mission is to promote partnerships across federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as in the private sector and internationally.
“It’s a pretty daunting challenge,” he said. “We work along a pretty large and diverse scope.”
The first-generation son of an Indian immigrant, Paul provides standards for a highly distributed and decentralized system to share valuable data.
“What [the Information Sharing Environment] brings to the table is a planning coordination and performance monitoring layer…it’s about bringing people together,” Paul said.
Paul’s position was birthed out of the 9/11 Commission, where members of the panel recommended the nation’s need to improve its information-sharing culture.
The position started as a way to share data on terrorism, but grew to include weapons of mass destruction, homeland security and cyber-threats. ISE also works to create privacy policies with agencies to protect citizens.
“We are in the transformations business, not in the operations business,” said Paul, whose job can sometimes be akin to setting up dominos and waiting for an emergency to see if they fall according to plan.
“When the Boston bombings happened…there was a sense of gratification because almost immediately, federal, state and local law enforcement and homeland security were working together in an effective way for a very accelerated response and apprehension,” Paul said.
On an average day, Paul must go through the rabbit hole of U.S. federalism and back again, working on a national issue one minute and a local one the next.
“There’s 18,000 police departments in the United States, 90 of which have 50 or fewer sworn-in officers,” Paul said. “It’s very distributed.”
Which is why in the same day he may be demonstrating to Congress what Government Accountability Office recommendations will do to his department and working with New Jersey on interoperability for the upcoming Super Bowl being played there.
His job is partly bridging the hometown with the homeland.
Before being appointed to his position by President Barack Obama in 2010, Paul worked for the Office of Management and Budget. He led initiatives such as Data.gov and Recovery.gov, websites that opened government data to citizens. He also helped the federal migration to IPv6.
Paul found his passion for technology when his older cousin, Bajinder Paul, now director and chief information officer of the Federal Trade Commission, was in college and switched his major to electrical engineering.
“I said, ‘You know what? I can do this.’ I had a picture of the space shuttle in my room…I was also very aware of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and the computer revolution,” Paul said. “I said, ‘If they can do it, so can I.’ It was a combination of my cousin and the awareness of the information revolution [that got me into IT].”
After a stint in the private sector, Paul went to the Justice Department and then OMB.
When the opportunity for his current job arose, Paul raised his hand.
“I remembered how I felt on 9/11 and I wanted to be part of the solution,” he said. He recently learned that exactly 44 years before, on Sept. 11, 1957, Paul’s father left for the United States from India with only $95 in his pocket and a fellowship at the University of Michigan.