President Joe Biden announced Feb. 23 that he had selected Kiran Ahuja, a former Department of Justice Lawyer and Office of Personnel Management chief of staff, to lead OPM.

“Having worked with Kiran before, I can personally attest to her deep appreciation for the critical role this agency plays in powering a strong federal government and her commitment to empowering the OPM workforce with the tools and support it needs to deliver on its important work. Once confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to welcoming Kiran back to OPM,” acting OPM director Kathleen McGettigan said in a statement.

Ahuja was first brought on to work at OPM shortly after the discovery of the agency’s massive 2015 data breach and was responsible for working to rebuild the agency’s senior leadership and drive workforce modernization initiatives, according to her LinkedIn biography.

“Her commitment to empowering the OPM workforce, expertise in federal human capital issues and track record of bringing people together to solve difficult problems makes her an excellent choice for this role who will hit the ground running on day one,” said former acting OPM Director Beth Cobert.

Ahuja, who spent six years as the executive director for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, would be the first South Asian person and first Asian American woman to lead the federal government’s personnel office.

“President Biden has made an excellent choice in his nomination of Kiran Ahuja to serve as the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. With over two decades of experience serving in government, non-profit and philanthropic sectors, Kiran is uniquely qualified to lead OPM at this critical juncture as we work to build a federal workforce that reflects the full diversity of our country,” said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., in a statement.

“As the former chief of staff to the director of OPM and the former executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under the Obama administration, she will bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to OPM that will enable her to hit the ground running on day one. I commend President Biden for continuing to build on his commitment to nominate highly qualified Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to senior roles throughout the federal government, and I know Kiran will be an outstanding member of the Biden administration.”

OPM has experienced a tumultuous few years, as it had two Senate-confirmed directors and three acting directors during President Donald Trump’s administration. The agency was also up for elimination entirely, as the Trump administration proposed placing OPM’s service functions under the General Services Administration and its policymaking functions under the Office of Management and Budget.

President Biden has indicated that he has plans for several federal workforce initiatives that are central to his overall policy, such as expanding the diversity of the workforce, increasing the minimum wage for federal workers, improving union relations and solidifying COVID safety protections in government offices.

The choice comes as little surprise, as Ahuja was selected to head up the Biden transition team’s OPM efforts prior to inauguration.

“The Office of Personnel Management is critically important to building a high functioning federal workforce and supporting our nation’s two million public servants,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service in a statement.

“Kiran Ahuja is a civic-minded leader and an outstanding choice for this important job. Ahuja’s exceptional qualifications include more than two decades of nonprofit leadership and public service, including at OPM and the White House, and a track record of solving human capital issues through innovation and collaboration.”

Both the American Federation of Government Employees and National Treasury Employees Union applauded the selection of Ahuja for her experience in federal personnel policy and history of diversity advocacy.

Jessie Bur covers the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees.

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