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Sandia Labs ‘pauses’ all diversity and inclusion training

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Labs Director James Peery

Sandia National Laboratories has paused all inclusion and diversity training in the wake of a memo from the Trump administration that called such sessions “divisive, un-American propaganda.”

The director of the labs said in an email to the workforce that the pause is temporary, and that inclusion and diversity are still critical to lab operations.

“This is a pause, not an end to our I&D training,” James Peery, director of Sandia National Labs, wrote in a message to lab employees, which was obtained by the Journal. “We continue to believe that inclusion and diversity are critical to providing exceptional service in the national interest.”

Sandia offered its employees diversity training in the wake of recent protests across the country, including those after the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by police.

The training at the labs upset at least one electrical engineer, who sent a lab-wide email blast criticizing them. The engineer, Casey Petersen, argued, in part, that the training overexaggerated the existence of systemic racism and white privilege.

The labs declined to discuss with the Journal the training they offered.

Several conservative-leaning news sites and think tanks wrote about Petersen’s email, which included an hourlong video. Those reports caught the attention of the White House, which pushed back against the training sessions.

On Sept. 4, Russell Vought, director of the White House Budget Office, referenced some of those media reports in a memo directing all executive branch agencies, which include national labs, to stop such workshops.

“The President has directed me to ensure that federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions,” he wrote.

Peery, in a letter to the lab workforce on Sept. 14, said that the National Nuclear Security Administration Sandia Field Office has directed the National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., to “immediately suspend all diversity, equity, and inclusion training until further written notice.”

“This communication is being sent to the workforce to enable NTESS and the labs to comply with the directive we have been given,” Peery said. “The Sandia workforce should immediately pause all training and organized discussion, communications and events focused on inclusion and diversity.”

He said activities about anti-harassment and anti-discrimination can continue.

Peery’s message said that lab leaders can answer staff members’ questions about his directive. But he said there shouldn’t be meetings dominated with conversations about “recent events regarding the labs’ inclusion and diversity efforts.”

Luke Frank, a spokesman for Sandia Labs, declined to answer questions and referred the Journal to the Department of Energy, which also didn’t answer questions.

The department did provide the Journal with a memo that showed the Secretary of Energy has created a task force that is investigating all inclusion, equity and diversity training sessions and workshops provided to personnel at DOE laboratories.

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