Indian-American lawyer and rights activist Kiran Ahuja has been nominated by US President Joe Biden to head the Office of Personnel Management, a federal department that oversees more than two million civil servants in America.
The 49-year-old Ahuja, if confirmed by the Senate, will become the first Indian-American to serve in this top role in the US government.
From 2015 to 2017, Ahuja was the Chief of Staff to the Head of the US Office of Personnel Management. She has more than two decades of experience in public service and leadership in the nonprofit/philanthropic field.
Ahuja is currently serving as the Chief Executive Officer of the regional network of philanthropic organizations, Philanthropy Northwest.
She started her career at the US Department of Justice as a civil rights lawyer, litigating school desegregation lawsuits, and filing the first student racial discrimination lawsuit for the department.
Ahuja served as the founding executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, an organization for activism and membership, from 2003 to 2008.
She spent six years as executive director of the White House Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Initiative during the Obama-Biden administration, leading efforts to expand access to federal services, funding, and programs for underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs).
Ahuja grew up as a young Indian immigrant in the midst of the age of civil rights in Savannah, Georgia, and received a bachelor's degree in political science from Spelman College and a law degree from Georgia University.
The Washington Post said that Ahuja will have a mandate to undo the civil service policies of former President Donald Trump, which he and his top aides frequently derided as the Democratic bureaucrats' "deep state"
During the Trump era, several agencies lost experts in a number of fields, and Biden has pledged to revitalize the workforce, the daily reported.
Ahuja's appointment was accepted by Congressman Gerry Connolly, Chairman of the House Government Operations Subcommittee.
"Ahujayears ''s of leadership experience and knowledge of OPM are much needed to rebuild an agency that was targeted for elimination in the last administration," he said.
"Ahuja is a well-known and expert leader who will instill stability and confidence in OPM as it recruits, hires, retains, and retires our 2.8 million federal employees. I look forward to her swift Senate confirmation, and then getting to the hard work of transforming OPM into the human resources and leadership training organization our nation needs it to be," Connolly said.
In his nomination for Ahuja, President Biden made an excellent choice to serve as OPM director, Congresswoman Judy Chu said.
"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," she said.
"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," Chu added.
Her impressive credentials include more than two decades of non-profit leadership and public service, including at OPM and the White House, and a track record of creativity and teamwork in addressing human capital issues, he noted.
In a statement, employees of the American Federation of Government said that Ahuja brings a wealth of expertise in federal staff matters and her record of activism on behalf of women of color causes to be hopeful that she will make it a priority to reverse the aggressive dismantling of diversity and inclusion efforts by the previous administration throughout the government.
"Ahuja has the expertise and experience that OPM needs for the federal workforce to drive human resource policy. And, most critically, she is committed to preserving and ensuring that the non-partisan civil service represents the diversity of the United States,” said President Tony Reardon of the National Treasury Employee Union.
The department was continuously undermined during the Trump administration by external attempts to split it up and abolish it, to the detriment of federal workers dependent on OPM for the independence and management of substantial federal employee services.
"We believe this appointment will result in steady, professional leadership at OPM that is committed to protecting its unique role in administering federal retirement programs and other human resource management priorities," he said.