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Biden Picks Kiran Ahuja to Lead U.S. Government’s HR Agency (1)

Feb. 23, 2021, 7:30 PM; Updated: Feb. 23, 2021, 9:32 PM

Kiran Ahuja is President Joe Biden‘s pick to lead the Office of Personnel Management, which acts as the government’s central human resources agency.

Ahuja, who was OPM’s chief of staff under former President Barack Obama, is chief executive officer of Philanthropy Northwest, a regional network of philanthropic groups. She also worked as a civil rights lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she litigated school desegregation cases.

From 2003 to 2008, Ahuja was the founding executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, an advocacy and membership organization. She also spent six years as executive director of Obama’s White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, leading efforts to increase access to federal programs for underserved Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Ahuja grew up in Savannah, Ga. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Spelman College and a law degree from the University of Georgia.

Federal employee unions, including the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union, welcomed the White House announcement of Ahuja’s selection to lead the agency.

Ahuja “brings a wealth of experience in federal personnel matters” and a history of advocating on behalf of women of color, which gives the union hope that she’ll step up diversity and inclusion efforts in the federal government, AFGE President Everett Kelley said in a statement. NTEU President Tony Reardon in a statement also emphasized Ahuja’s experience and commitment to diversity.

The nomination garnered praise from other quarters, including from Kathleen McGettigan, OPM’s acting director; Beth Corbert, a top official at the White House Office of Management and Budget under Obama who also served as the OPM acting director; and Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, a Washington-based nonprofit.

Matt Biggs, secretary-treasurer of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, said in an email that while his union hasn’t worked closely with Ahuja, her experience is a plus.

Ahuja “is clearly very qualified, is an OPM veteran with a track record of respect for the federal workforce, and has a career outside of government advocating for diversity and inclusion,” Biggs said.

OPM had two Senate-confirmed directors—Jeff Pon and Dale Cabaniss—during President Donald Trump’s four years in office. Pon and Cabaniss both resigned after about six months leading the agency. OPM was led by acting directors for the rest of Trump’s term.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com

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