OPM has effectively put a hold on diversity type training in federal agencies pending its review of materials used for such training under a recent executive order, while meanwhile emphasizing to agencies the broad scope of that order.
The memo is the latest in a series from OPM and OMB on the order, which bars training on “anti-American” or other “divisive” concepts such as “race or sex stereotyping or any other form of race or sex scapegoating” that it says have occurred in some federal workplace diversity and inclusiveness training sessions.
It does not explicitly suspend those types of training but that is the effect: it says that agencies must submit for OPM review all training materials “before they are used, even if those materials have been utilized in the past.”
The review requirement further applies to all agencies and programs, whether developed before or after the order, it says, and “includes, but is not limited to, all training that is paid for with federal funds or that federal employees are required or permitted to view, listen to, or participate in while on government-paid time.”
“Included is training that is conducted or led by government employees; training that is conducted or led by contractors or others; live training sessions conducted in person or by any electronic means, whether telephonic or video; materials posted on any federal agency’s public-facing or internal internet or intranet sites; and, written or video materials or other content that have been produced or procured with federal funds and that are available to the general public or that federal employees are required or permitted to read or view,” it says.
Agencies are to submit their materials comprehensively rather than on a case by case basis. OPM will review them on a first-in, first-out basis “and will provide analysis and feedback as quickly as possible . . . if agencies can improve their materials before submitting them, that will expedite completion of the review process.”
The order sets similar content standards for training in the military and by federal contractors and grantees.
Meanwhile, the order continues to draw opposition on grounds that it is over-broad. Democratic leaders of the House Oversight and Reform Committee told OMB in a letter that the directive will undercut training designed to “help Americans to understand the history of race and racism in the United States, how that legacy affects government policy, and how they can identify and correct unconscious biases that affect important policy and personnel decisions.”
Similar sentiments were voiced by numerous outside civil rights groups, academics and federal employee organizations. One special point of concern for the organizations is that the order calls for disciplinary action against employees who approve or conduct training that runs afoul of the order. The NTEU union called it “heavy-handed and unnecessarily punitive order designed to intimidate federal employees.”
Full EO text here:
Executive Order Bans ‘Anti-American’ Training in Federal Workplace