Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Kiran Ahuja stressed the need for agency budgets to include funding for efforts to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) for the Federal workforce during a Jan. 27 roundtable discussion hosted by OPM and the Commerce Department.

Ahuja nudged Federal agencies earlier this month to establish chief diversity officer positions, but recognized during the roundtable session that agency budgets may not always allow room for DEIA efforts.

“I think what’s going to be important [is]… agency budgets,” Ahuja said. “Oftentimes things related to partnerships and recruitment, and internships, and professional development go to the wayside when agencies are trying to manage their budgets.”

Ahuja said it’s up to Congress to push for DEIA efforts and include them in agency budgets, noting that President Biden’s executive order (EO) 14035 established DEIA as a Federal government priority.

“I think that’s both something we’re going to emphasize inside government, but certainly we need our congressional partners to ask those questions,” Ahuja said. “We need the community organizations and universities to say, ‘Are these part of agency budgets,’ because they’re going to need your support in that way as well, so we can do this collectively.”

Under section four of the EO, agencies are required to “seek opportunities to establish a position of [CDO] or diversity and inclusion officer (DIO), with sufficient seniority to coordinate efforts to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within the agency.”

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves also spoke at the roundtable and noted that his agency is “soon to welcome” its very first chief diversity officer.

“It was critically important that that person be at the senior executive service level because we wanted to have someone who was empowered to work with every bureau – all of our 13 different bureaus across the department – and with us in the central offices to make sure that diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, were core to everything that we were doing,” Graves said.

“We know that our investments and our programs are often designed in ways that reach some Americans, but fail to reach a whole range of others,” Graves added. “So, this administration is committed to equity and delivering on that promise so that everyone has that chance at the American dream, not just as the privileged few.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.