Kiran Ahuja, President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Office of Personnel Management, has said her goal is to free “black queer and trans people” from the “daily trials of white supremacy.” If confirmed, Ahuja would help set hiring standards and coordinate diversity training across the entire federal government.
Until her February nomination, Ahuja was the CEO of Philanthropy Northwest, a nonprofit that offers “diversity, equity, and inclusion-focused programs” to philanthropic foundations. In a blog post written last year on Philanthropy Northwest’s website, Ahuja pledged to play a “vocal role in our country’s eternal battle for racial equality.” The post cited a Guardian article by Ibram X. Kendi that proposed eliminating all “‘race-neutral’ policies that yield racial inequality.”
OPM is supposed to be a nonpartisan agency that manages the U.S civil service. It grew out of the 19th century Civil Service Commission, which sought to curb corruption and patronage by hiring personnel based on merit. The agency’s guiding principle, according to its website, is that “employees should be judged only on how well they can do the job.”
Kendi, whom Ahuja’s group hosted multiple times, has called standardized tests “the most effective racist weapon ever devised.”
Biden’s staffing choices at OPM indicate that the agency is already being politicized. OPM’s communications director, Caroline Ciccone, was until recently the head of Accountable.US, a leftwing nonprofit that pressured companies to cut ties with former Trump administration officials. Since OPM sets hiring and promotion standards for the entire civil service, politicizing the agency could have ripple effects throughout the federal government.
Ahuja’s confirmation would accelerate this process. Shortly after taking office, Biden rescinded President Trump’s executive order barring agencies from conducting diversity trainings that promote “divisive concepts,” such as the idea that “the United States is fundamentally racist.” Those trainings are Ahuja’s specialty. Under her tenure, Philanthropy Northwest hosted a “racial equity speaker series” about the “racism and implicit bias inherent in society’s structures.” Kendi was a featured speaker at the series and is frequently cited in Ahuja’s writings.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
What might federal