Kim Warren: Across Multiple Domains, the Mission Remains—Even in Retirement

After decades of impactful MITRE work across health, aviation, homeland security, intel, and defense, in retirement Kim Warren plans to take her skills to the hyper-local level.

Kimberly Warren always thinks big. For three decades she’s steered critical projects addressing some of our world’s most pressing problems—including health, aviation, homeland security, intel, and defense.

But now Warren plans to take her big ideas to the hyper-local level. Upon retirement from MITRE in March, she’ll focus on making a difference in her own northern New Hampshire community. 

There Are No Small Projects

Kim warren presentation

Warren’s plan? Applying her project-management expertise plus a deep understanding of the workings of state and federal government programs to help improve health and wellness in Franconia, N.H., and the surrounding areas. 

Warren and her husband Michal Cenkl put down permanent roots near Franconia Notch during the COVID-19 shutdown. Her new community is “under-resourced and under-served” in critical health and wellness areas, she says—such as access to quality care and behavioral health. Several years ago, Warren and Cenkl established The Cenkl Foundation, a nonprofit that sponsors community events for fundraising and awareness.  

In addition to leaving behind a frequent 500+-mile commute to McLean headquarters, retirement will provide Warren the freedom to go deeper into developing the foundation to better serve her community, she says. And Warren’s many successes at MITRE translate into a unique skillset that will help her bring about impactful change for her New Hampshire neighbors, particularly in the health and wellness arena.

“I thought—what a great time to bring everything I’ve learned from inside the Beltway up to the rural communities that need it most,” she says. 

I thought—what a great time to bring everything I’ve learned from inside the Beltway up to the rural communities that need it most.

Kimberly Warren, MITRE vice president and Health FFRDC director (retired)

A Vastly Varying Path

“Everything” isn’t an overstatement. Over more than 30 years at MITRE, Warren has brought her skills and leadership to multiple FFRDCs across a wide array of disciplines. 

Warren came to MITRE out of grad school as a researcher and as a section leader for Artificial Intelligence, helping to shape research and capabilities that address national needs with advanced technology. 

After seven years, though, she switched gears—literally—to product development, including a stint as global director for e-product development for General Motors (GM). 

“I’m a car gal—it was a fabulous job,” she recalls. 

But MITRE was never far from her mind, or her heart. In fact, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, spurred her decision to return to MITRE and our mission. Evacuated from Detroit’s 73-floor Renaissance Center on the day of the attacks, Warren checked in first with her family. Then she called her former MITRE colleagues. 

“I thought, `How can I help?’ I realized I had to get back to MITRE,” she recalls. “I needed to play a role in these important national safety challenges.” 

Shaping Global Health

That’s how Warren returned to the MITRE fold. The former GM “car gal” changed lanes to serve as chief architect for the Center for Advanced Aviation System Development, and later took on the director role for the Homeland Security Systems Engineering and Development Institute™. Both positions put her background in engineering, defense, advanced computing, and cybersecurity to work.

In 2011, Warren’s career took a hairpin turn—to healthcare. 

For MITRE, “health” covers a broad footprint, including healthcare, public and population health, biomedical innovation, and social services. These topics became more urgent and visible when the Affordable Care Act of 2010 helped drive the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) need for an objective partner for seismic changes afoot in U.S. healthcare. 

With approval from Hill staffers, the White House, and the Department of Health and Human Services, “the stars aligned to create a Health FFRDC,” Warren recalls. MITRE’s reputation for FFRDC management and the diversity of our technical talent won us the first contract, plus competitive and non-competitive renewals for operating the FFRDC that now extends to 2028 and beyond.

As the FFRDC took off, Warren accepted the role of technical director and chief engineer for the Center for Transforming Health, overseeing MITRE independent research and development. In her final MITRE role, Warren served as vice president and director of the Health FFRDC. To the end, she oversaw our collaboration with nonprofits, academia, and industry to innovate and improve healthcare in the United States.

Leaving a Legacy of Impact

As healthcare, public health, health and well-being, and biomedical innovation challenges grow in both scope and complexity, the Health FFRDC will grow in its mission—and in its success, Warren says, after her planned exit.

“We have the ability to look around the corner and see what’s coming,” she continues. “Even before the FFRDC, we were bringing research forward to create novel standards to transform health and innovating in the operations of several federal health agencies.”

Warren leaves MITRE justly proud of multiple milestones over her diverse career, but especially in health. For example, she points to MITRE’s robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a special point of pride. As a leader of the COVID-19 Healthcare Coalition—a collaborative private-sector industry response to the coronavirus—Warren was instrumental in delivering timely information and solutions to our federal sponsors who were at the front lines.

“Our work is ripped from the headlines,” she explains. “With empathy and appreciation for our strong sponsor relationships, we’re at the heart of health issues that touch every American.”

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Warren’s upcoming ventures and adventures in northern New Hampshire (‘in The North Country’ as she calls it) will provide her with the kind of diverse missions she relished during her MITRE years. 

That wide array of projects was a direct result of MITRE’s people, she says—a collaborative culture that allows for contributing to a range of solutions for a safer world.

“Throughout my time at MITRE, I was able to move from domain to domain, and center to center, and FFRDC to FFRDC, because of the intellectual generosity of MITRE people,” she says. 

Warren continues, “At the core, MITRE people want you to know everything they know. They’re not knowledge hoarders—they’re unbelievably generous. I’ve never seen that anywhere, and I’ve been on the inside and the outside.”

That’s the kind of collaboration Warren intends to take back outside—to make big things happen in a wholly different domain.

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