OMB Director Russell Vought issued a memo Monday on steps agencies must take to comply with an order on diversity training.

OMB Director Russell Vought issued a memo Monday on steps agencies must take to comply with an order on diversity training. Alex Brandon / AP

White House Threatens Discipline for Employees Engaging in ‘Divisive’ Training, Calls for Political Watchdogs

OMB issues new guidance to implement Trump's directives on diversity and inclusion training at federal agencies.

The White House on Monday outlined specific steps agencies must take to comply with directives instructing them to eliminate certain diversity training initiatives, and threatened to discipline federal workers who violate the orders. 

Agencies should take “immediate and substantive action” to implement President Trump’s executive order and White House guidance issued earlier this month to curb some diversity and inclusion efforts underway at federal agencies, Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought said in a memorandum Monday. A memo earlier this month barred agencies from holding training sessions on "critical race theory," an academic framework that studies how racism persists institutionally rather than as personal animus. Trump followed that up with an executive order extending the ban to contractors and the military, saying the government had engaged in initiatives that were “rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country.” Critics have flagged the directives, which come amid widespread social unrest over the recent high-profile police killings of Black Americans, as politically motivated and potentially unlawful. 

“The president and the administration believe the fair and equal treatment of individuals is an inviolable principle that must be maintained in the federal workplace,” Vought said in his new memo. The OMB director asserted that only through taking the actions Trump has laid out can agencies put that into practice. 

The Trump administration promised discipline for any employees who allow “divisive training” to continue. 

“Agency employees and contractors are not to engage in divisive training of federal workers,”  Vought wrote. “Noncompliance by continuing with prohibited training will result in consequences, which may include adverse action for federal employees who violate the order.”

The memo laid out specific phrases agencies should search for to identify trainings that may conflict with Trump’s directives, including "critical race theory," "white privilege," "intersectionality," "systemic racism," "positionality," "racial humility," and "unconscious bias." 

The ban includes both internal trainings and those conducted by outside vendors. It also applies to contractors and grant recipients, who must ensure their workforces are not engaging in any of the diversity and inclusion practices Trump has labeled as “divisive.” Any contractor in violation of the order risks being suspended or debarred from future federal awards. 

Vought instructed agencies to certify that any federal dollars grantees receive do not go toward training on “divisive concepts,” even if the grant dollars allow for other types of training. Grant recipients cannot conduct research on any of those concepts and must certify they will not use federal funds to even “promote those divisive” topics. 

Agencies must tap a senior political appointee to approve any spending on diversity and inclusion expenses, while all training programs must be reviewed by the Office of Personnel Management to check for possible violations. Agencies will have to report to OMB on their progress in identifying newly prohibited practices. 

Vought also told agencies to encourage their employees to report any violations of Trump’s orders to their inspector general. The director has taken to Twitter to highlight trainings that agencies have canceled after they were brought to light and set up an email account for individuals to report on any alleged violations. 

Trump has also touted his order, saying he banned efforts to “indoctrinate government employees.” 

“Americans should be taught to take pride in our great country,” Trump said, “and if you don’t, there’s nothing in it for you.”