Fedweek

A Senate committee hearing is set for Thursday (April 22) on Kiran Ahuja’s nomination to become OPM director, potentially setting the stage for her confirmation in the near future.

No opposition has emerged to Ahuja, who was OPM’s chief of staff for part of the Obama administration and who most recently led the Biden transition team for the agency. She also has experience as a Justice Department attorney and with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under Obama, among other roles.

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The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has been advancing nominees fairly promptly after holding confirmation hearings.

Likely topics for attention at the hearing—and for Ahuja once she takes office, assuming she is confirmed—will include the recent National Academy for Public Administration report calling on OPM to take a more assertive role in evaluating and fulfilling the government’s personnel needs; potential changes to employment policies and benefits under the administration’s upcoming budget and management proposals; labor-management relations including the possibility of reestablishing cooperative forums such as the Clinton and Obama administrations created; and the government’s long-term approach to telework and other flexibilities whose use spiked due to the pandemic.

Other potential topics likely will include takeaways from the 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey—OPM still hasn’t released the full results but data from many individual agency reports have painted a general picture—and the continued lack of guidance from OPM on a special leave fund enacted into law in early March for federal employees unable to work for certain pandemic-related reasons.

OPM has had only acting directors for all but about 12 months in total since mid-2015 when the then-director resigned in the wake of database breaches that exposed personal information on millions of current and former federal employees and others. It currently is being led by career official Kathleen McGettigan, who filled that role at the outset of the Trump administration, as well.

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