OPM candidate plans focus on telecommuting, IT and retirement
Kiran Ahuja from his years as Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Kiran Ahuja, President Joe Biden’s candidate for the Bureau of Personnel Management, spoke about IT modernization and pension backlogs during his April 22 nomination hearing before the Senate Security Committee domestic and government affairs.
Ahuja knows the challenges facing the OPM. She was the agency’s chief of staff during the fallout of the devastating personnel records hack in 2015. She told lawmakers that IT modernization would be a priority.
She also spoke about OPM’s role in efforts to improve morale in the federal workforce and take the lead in government-wide human capital management and addressing critical gaps in skills.
“OPM will need to innovate to meet modern agency needs for recruiting, hiring, retention, engagement and performance management,” said Ahuja. “My mission would be to serve and support federal employees and to restore, rebuild and reorganize the federal workforce.
If confirmed, she will enter an agency that saw a slew of temporary leaders during the last administration and survived plans to merge with the General Service Administration. The OPM has also been the subject of recent recommendations from the National Academy of Public Administration that it should not only remain independent, but also be more forward-looking and strategic in its planning.
Ahuja told lawmakers she believes the lack of consistent leadership at the head of the OPM has hampered the agency’s ability to complete longer-term IT modernization projects.
The candidate also addressed the concerns of lawmakers over the federal pension processing system.
“As long as it’s on paper, I think we’re going to have these challenges lasting,” Ahuja said. “It’s not just for retirement services. The way to improve these times is ultimately through the IT modernization process that is going to be necessary.”
Ahuja said telecommuting and remote working would also be priorities.
As the nation and federal government contemplate the possibility of breaking out of a pandemic, the OPM is working to provide guidance for telecommuting and remote working that maintains some of the current flexibilities. Overcoming the government’s historical reluctance to widespread teleworking will also require the personnel office to address the issues that have arisen as a result. Ahuja emphasized local pay, which current OPM officials say will require reorganization.
“I am very supportive of the opportunities that telecommuting and remote working would provide and, if confirmed as the director of OPM, that would be something I would definitely look into,” Ahuja said. I think we are completely rethinking the work in this area. moment, not just the federal government, but across the country. “
Natalie Alms is a writer at FCW and covers the Federal Workforce. She recently graduated from Wake Forest University and wrote for the Salisbury (NC) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.