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DOD IG kicks off compliance review for diversity EO

The Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Defense has halted an audit meant to assess whether military personnel are given adequate diversity training in order to focus its resources on a new review assessing DOD’s compliance with the Trump administration’s executive order that targeted "anti-American propaganda" in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training.

"Our focus is to ensure the DOD is in compliance with the provisions of the EO issued on September 22, 2020," said Dwrena Allen, chief communications spokesperson with the DOD Inspector General Office.

The new review aligns with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s Oct. 16 request for the OIG to conduct a compliance review concerning the executive order, Allen said. The review began in October, according to an Oct. 29 memo announcing the project by Randolph Stone, the OIG's assistant inspector general for evaluations.

President Donald Trump's executive order and the accompanying memos take aim at alleged "anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating" by outlawing the use of certain concepts deemed "divisive" in training sessions, such as "critical race theory" or "white privilege."

The executive order has been the subject of recent lawsuits, with plaintiffs saying it is already having a chilling effect on DEI training. Others have pointed to key questions about the implementation of the order, which they say has ambiguous standards.

At DOD, a request for a summary and curricula of DEI training from all combat support agencies has "created a little bit of a hiatus in some of our training," said Stephen Jackson, the diversity and inclusion implementation executive at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, at an Oct. 20 Government Executive panel on diversity and inclusion.

The now-terminated audit was launched Sept. 24 to determine whether military departments were effectively providing diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity training in line with the DOD’s diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity goals, as well as federal and Pentagon policies.

Before the issuance of the executive order in September, the DOD had taken action regarding diversity and inclusion earlier this year, with the changing of some immediate policies – such as the removal of pictures in promotion and selection processes – along with the creation of mid- and long-term boards on diversity and inclusion.

The Defense Department Board on Diversity and Inclusion was chartered as a result of the larger conversations on racism over the summer after the killing of George Floyd, and it is set to give a report to Esper by Dec. 15 on ways to improve on diversity and inclusion.

Still, there is a "constant concern" among service members and Esper himself that the Defense Department would "lose focus" on diversity and inclusion initiatives, Esper said in an Oct. 30 blog post from the DOD.

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