Lawyer Kiran Ahuja to Head US Office of Personnel Management

Ahuja is the first Indian American to head the Office of Personnel Management.

South Asians
3 min read

On 22 June, the US Senate confirmed President Biden's nomination of Kiran Ahuja as head of the Government's Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The Senate voted 51-50 in favour of Ahuja, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie breaker. The confirmation was delayed for weeks by Republicans by the likes of Josh Hawley.

Ahuja is the first Indian American to head the Office of Personnel Management and will be responsible for future hirings by the government which is seeking to be more diverse.


Who is Kiran Ahuja?

Born in India and raised in the USA, Kiran Ahuja, is the CEO of philanthrophy Northwest, a non-profit based in Seattle that works across six states. She comes from a family of immigrants and has moved to the US when she was two years of age.

Ahuja's father was a Psychiatrist who worked at the Southern rural hospitals and also set up a clinic in Georgia for the under served communities. It was with her mother working in the flea market and the experiences there she first realised the discrimination she could face because of her skin colour.

After completing her Law degree from the University of Georgia, she joined the Department of Justice as a Trial attorney but in three years' time changed roles. She started teaching at the University of Washington and was now the Executive Director of National Asian Pacific American Women's forum and transformed it from a volunteer-based organisation to a paid job for all members. She also worked for the US government as Director for the White House initiative for AAPI and then Chief of Staff for the OPM.

Ahuja has worked on a range of issues like health disparities among AAPI communities and or South Asian Americans in the Gulf after the BP oil spill.

Ahuja's Thoughts on Race

She has on multiple occasions spoken out against racism and especially during the tenure of former President Donald Trump. She, in 2019 in an article in Chronicle of Philanthropy, spoke in favour of the four women of colour in the Congress. She called upon people, organisations and philanthropists to speak about such racism even if the perpetrator is the president. She has also been known to call the Trump administration "white supremacists".

Republicans also link her with Ibram X Kendi, advocate of the critical race theory, which explains racism to be systemic and not based on individual prejudices and advocates it to be taught in school. Former Vice President and a compelling candidate for President in 2024 called the theory a "left wing myth".

In the Senate, Ahuja distanced herself from Kandi's views but when asked if America is a racist country, she said that people need to be aware of the past and that she will "seek to ensure equal opportunity" during her time in office and thinks that diversity programmes could "encourage understanding and create an inclusive workforce. "


Hyde Law Amendment

Hyde amendment is a Republican brainchild and was initiated to ban payments by the state for abortion except when there is a danger to the woman's life or pregnancy conceived out of incest or rape. Ahuja has previously spoken about her apprehensions against this amendment which the Democrats have also not overturned.

Ahuja as the head of OPM, will have to work on human resources and hence come up with an abortion plan – a concern for the Republicans given her thoughts on the Hyde amendment. She was asked by Sen Hawley if she will follow the Hyde law in office and she replied she would. On the question of whether health insurance should include puberty blockers and sex re-assignment surgery, she said that she would commit to better understanding what is happening inside the agency, the Global Government Forum reported.

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