The new director for the Office of Personnel Management has expressed her commitment to strengthening the agency that was on the chopping block less than a year ago.
Kiran Ahuja was sworn in as the OPM chief on June 24, two days after the Senate confirmed her for the position in a contentious vote.
“OPM has faced unique and significant challenges, and it will take time to fully address them. But I’m confident we’ll come out stronger on the other side — because we will do this together. I strongly believe with all of you, we are well-positioned for our next chapter as an agency,” Ahuja said at her virtual swearing-in ceremony in an address to OPM’s workforce.
“I know you are already tackling the major issues of our times. From shaping how and where we work in the future to ensuring everyone is safe while working during this pandemic, and discussions regarding how we rebuild our federal workforce. There’s no shortage of conversations to be had and issues to tackle,” she added.
OPM has been under intense political pressure over the last few years. The Trump administration proposed getting rid of the agency and merging its functions with the General Services Administration and the Executive Office of the President as part of a sweeping government reform plan.
The agency was also the vehicle for many of the Trump administration’s workforce reform initiatives, such as changing how agencies collectively bargain with employee unions and cracking down on poor-performing individuals .
President Joe Biden overturned most of those initiatives in his first few weeks in office, but OPM has a history of inconsistent leadership. The agency had five different directors — two of which were confirmed by the Senate — in the last four years.
Ahuja promised OPM employees that she is “in this for the long haul,” reiterating commitments to Congress that she intends to serve out a full term as director.
“You are building, strengthening, and supporting the world’s best workforce. I truly believe that. Every single person at OPM is helping to recruit, retain and honor the workforce that’s landing rovers on Mars, fighting climate change and cancer, and building this country back better,” Ahuja wrote in a June 24 letter to employees.
“That’s a tall order, and it’s not easy. It’s no secret that OPM has faced serious challenges. Through it all, you’ve stood by this agency.”
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.