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Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja to Step Down Next Month

Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja to Step Down Next Month

  • The first Asian American woman to lead the agency tasked with overseeing the federal civilian workforce, she is the longest serving director of the office in more than 10 years.

Kiran Ahuja, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will step down early next month, “to deal with an ongoing health concern and following a recent death in the family,” as reported by Politico. The OMP is tasked with overseeing the federal civilian workforce, which consists of thousands of employees, as well as the hiring process. “It has taken on additional importance during the coronavirus pandemic, as OPM offers guidance on telework, benefits and other policies,” the agency website says.

‘Serving in the Biden-Harris Administration, and in support of the 2.2 million federal workers who dedicate themselves to the American people, has been the honor of my life,” Ahuja said in a statement .“We have accomplished so much these last three years at OPM, but I am most proud of the friendships and bonds we built together in public service.”

Ahuja, who was confirmed in June 2021, became the first Asian American woman to lead it. She is the longest serving director of the office in more than 10 years. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking 51st vote in her favor, making her the first Biden official confirmed via tiebreaker. She faced staunch opposition from the GOP because of her ties to critical race theory through her nonprofit organization Philanthropy Northwest, a network of nonprofit organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

Under her leadership, the OPM has “implemented a $15 minimum wage for federal employees, issued a regulation that prohibits use of previous nonfederal salary history in setting pay, issued a regulation that prohibits requesting criminal history for hiring, and created the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility,” the agency said in a press release announcing Ahuja’s departure. 

The Indian American received glowing tributes from her colleagues at OPM and other agencies as well. Deputy Director Rob Shriver said Ahuja “leaves an incredible legacy as a strong and indefatigable champion of the 2.2 million public servants in the federal workforce.” Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough credited her for “building OPM into a critical strategic partner on flexible hiring and innovative pay authorities,” while Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su lauded her for “bringing a wealth of expertise and creativity to OPM.”

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Ahuja, who led Biden’s transition team at OPM, previously served as the agency’s chief of staff from 2015 until 2017. Before joining OPM, she was the executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the Obama administration. She began her career in government as a civil rights attorney in the Justice Department. Since leaving government, she worked as CEO of Philanthropy Northwest.

As per her profile on Philanthropy Northwest, Ahuja spent her childhood in Savannah, Georgia, and most of her adult life in Washington, D.C. “Her passion for service and commitment to improving the lives of communities of color grew out of a formative educational experience at her alma mater, Spelman College,” the profile says. 

She received her law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. She currently serves on the board of directors for Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP), the United Philanthropy Forum and the Wing Luke Museum. An avid yoga practitioner with a teacher certification, Ahuja is working toward building a stronger meditation practice; however, as in all efforts in life, it is a continuous journey to find balance.

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