Audit of Pentagon Diversity Training Canceled After Trump Executive Order

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Soldiers participate in equal opportunity training at Fort Eustis, Virginia
Soldiers participate in equal opportunity training at Fort Eustis, Virginia, on June 23, 2020. The 60-hour course is designed to prepare soldiers to be equal opportunity advisers in their respective units and includes inclusion and diversity training. (U.S. Army photo by David Overson)

The Department of Defense inspector general has canceled a planned audit of the department's diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity training following an executive order from President Donald Trump barring instruction within the federal government that includes topics such as systemic racism and implicit bias.

The IG had announced Sept. 24 that it would review the DoD and military services' training on prejudice, racism and sexism to determine whether it met the goals set by the department to eliminate bias in the ranks.

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But the announcement, which was in the works for weeks, was preempted by Trump's executive order, issued Sept. 22.

Trump's order specifically bans the DoD and military services from teaching "any of the divisive concepts set forth ... in the order," including stereotyping by race and sex, as well as "race or sex scapegoating" -- defined as "assigning fault, blame or bias to a race or sex [and] ... encompassing any claim that consciously or unconsciously, by virtue of his or her race or sex, members of any race are inherently racist or inherently inclined to oppress others."

"[The] Uniformed Services should not teach our heroic men and women in uniform the lie that the country for which they are willing to die is fundamentally racist," Trump wrote in the order. "Such teachings could directly threaten the cohesion and effectiveness of our Uniformed Services."

In response, Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a memo Oct. 16 asking the OIG to conduct a compliance review concerning the executive order, a decision the DoD OIG has decided cancels out its initial audit.

Theresa Hull, assistant inspector general for audit in the OIG's acquisition, contracting and sustainment office, said that as a result of the executive order and Esper's memo, the office instead will launch a new project to review all training through the lens of the president's order.

"We are terminating this audit because we are going to announce a new project that is focused on the recently issued executive order ... and implemented by the Secretary of Defense memorandum," Hull wrote in the announcement.

The DoD IG office did not respond to a request for further comment.

Following nationwide protests in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd and the killings of other Black people at the hands of police, Esper and senior military leaders launched listening tours among troops this year. Many officials made pledges to eliminate bias -- either conscious or unconscious -- in the ranks.

In July, Esper announced he would create a DoD board on diversity and inclusion, as well as a Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the Armed Forces, to study the issues of social justice and equality in the military.

Also this year, the Air Force and Navy established task forces to focus on changing policies and procedures that negatively affect minority and other underrepresented service members, while the Army, which created a diversity task force in 2008, and the Marine Corps launched new initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion of all troops, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or creed.

The services also have removed photos from promotion packages in an effort to eliminate bias and barred the Confederate battle flag, along with nearly every flag that is not a sanctioned symbol of a government or state, and is considering renaming military bases that honor Confederate officers.

"These actions identified today will better ensure a diverse workforce at all levels, an inclusive environment, and equal opportunity for all who serve," Esper said in a release this summer.

But Trump has continued to decry the removal of Confederate symbols from public property and threatened to veto any congressional legislation requiring 10 Army posts to change their names.

On Monday, he also established a commission to promote "patriotic education" in America -- instruction on reinforcing the core values of "the American founding:" life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"Despite the virtues and accomplishments of this nation, many students are now taught in school to hate their own country, and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but rather villains," Trump wrote in his latest order.

The outcome of Tuesday's presidential election will determine whether the executive orders remain in place after Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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