Republicans Introduce Bill To Ban DEI in Government, Federal Contracting

New legislation would shutter government DEI offices and ban federal contractors from mandating DEI statements or trainings.

Sen. J.D. Vance (Win McNamee/Getty Images).
June 12, 2024

Congressional Republicans introduced a bill on Wednesday that would eliminate all diversity, equity, and inclusion positions in the federal government and bar federal contractors from requiring DEI statements and training sessions.

The Dismantle DEI Act, introduced by Sen. J.D. Vance (R., Ohio) and Rep. Michael Cloud (R., Texas), would also bar federal grants from going to diversity initiatives, cutting off a key source of support for DEI programs in science and medicine. Other provisions would prevent accreditation agencies from requiring DEI in schools and bar national securities associations, like NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange, from instituting diversity requirements for corporate boards.

"The DEI agenda is a destructive ideology that breeds hatred and racial division," Vance told the Washington Free Beacon. "It has no place in our federal government or anywhere else in our society."

The bill is the most comprehensive legislative effort yet to excise DEI initiatives from the federal government and regulated entities. It offers a preview of how a Republican-controlled government, led by former president Donald Trump, could crack down on the controversial diversity programs that have exploded since 2020, fueled in part by President Joe Biden’s executive orders mandating a "whole-of-government" approach to "racial equity."

From NASA and the National Science Foundation to the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S Army, all federal agencies require some form of diversity training. Mandatory workshops have drilled tax collectors on "cultural inclusion," military commanders on male pregnancy, and nuclear engineers on the "roots of white male culture," which—according to a training for Sandia National Laboratories, the Energy Department offshoot that designs America’s nuclear arsenal—include a "can-do attitude" and "hard work."

The Sandia training, conducted in 2019 by a group called "White Men As Full Diversity Partners," instructed nuclear weapons engineers to write "a short message" to "white women" and "people of color" about what they’d learned, according to screenshots of the training obtained by the Manhattan Institute’s Christopher Rufo.

The bill would ban these trainings and close the government DEI offices that conduct them. It would also prevent personnel laid off by those closures from being transferred or reassigned—a move meant to stop diversity initiatives from continuing under another name.

The prohibitions, which cover outside DEI consultants as well as government officials, would be enforced via a private right of action and could save the government billions of dollars. In 2023, the Biden administration spent over $16 million on diversity training for government employees alone. It requested an additional $83 million that year for DEI programs at the State Department and $9.2 million for the Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility—one of the many bureaucracies the bill would eliminate.

A large chunk of savings would come from axing DEI grants made through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has a near monopoly on science funding in the United States. The agency hosts an entire webpage for "diversity related" grant opportunities—including several that prioritize applicants from "diverse backgrounds"—and has set aside billions of dollars for "minority institutions" and researchers with a "commitment to promoting diversity." All of those programs would be on the chopping block should Vance and Cloud’s bill pass.

Cosponsored by Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), Rick Scott (R., Fla.), Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), Bill Cassidy (R., La.), and Eric Schmitt (R., Mo.) in the Senate, the Dismantle DEI Act has drawn support from prominent conservative advocacy groups, including Heritage Action and the Claremont Institute. At a time of ideological fracture on the right—debates about foreign aid and the proper role of government bitterly divided Trump’s primary challengers, for example, both in 2016 and 2024—Wednesday’s bill aims to provide a rallying cry most Republicans can get behind: DEI needs to die.

"It’s absurd to fund these divisive policies, especially using Americans' tax dollars," Cloud told the Free Beacon. "And it’s time for Congress to put an end to them once and for all."

The bill has the potential to free millions of Americans—both in government and the private sector—from the sort of divisive diversity trainings that have become an anti-woke bête noire. Its most consequential provisions might be those governing federal contractors, which employ up to a fifth of the American workforce and include companies like Pfizer, Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, and Verizon.

Each firm runs a suite of DEI programs, from race-based fellowships and "resource groups" to mandatory workshops, that have drawn public outcry and in some cases sparked legal challenges. By targeting these contractors, the bill could purge DEI from large swaths of the U.S. economy without directly outlawing the practice in private institutions.

Targeting accreditors, meanwhile, could remove a key driver of DEI programs in professional schools. The American Bar Association and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredit all law and medical schools in the United States and derive much of their power from the U.S. Department of Education, have both made DEI material—including course content on "anti-racism"—a requirement for accreditation, over the objections of some of their members.

Those mandates have spurred a handful of law schools to require entire classes on critical race theory. The transformation has been even more acute at medical schools, which, per accreditation guidelines released in 2022, should teach students to identify "systems of power, privilege, and oppression."

Yale Medical School now requires residents to take a mandatory course on "advocacy" and "health justice," for example. And at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, students must complete a "health equity" course that promotes police abolition, describes weight loss as a "hopeless endeavor," and states that "biomedical knowledge" is "just one way" of understanding "health and the world."

While the bill wouldn’t outlaw these lessons directly, it would prevent accreditors recognized by the Education Department from mandating them. Such agencies, whose seal of approval is a prerequisite for federal funds, would need to certify that their accreditation standards do not "require, encourage, or coerce any institution of higher education to engage in prohibited" DEI practices, according to the text of the bill. They would also need to certify that they do not "assess the commitment of an institution of higher education to any ideology, belief, or viewpoint" as part of the accreditation process.

Other, more technical provisions would eliminate diversity quotas at federal agencies and end a racially targeted grant program in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Unlike past GOP efforts to limit DEI, which have focused on the content of diversity trainings and the use of explicit racial preferences, the bill introduced Wednesday would also ax requirements related to data collection. It repeals a law that forces the armed services to keep tabs on the racial breakdown of officers, for example, as well as a law that requires intelligence officials to collect data on the "diversity and inclusion efforts" of their agencies.

Though officials could still collect the data if they so choose, the bill would mark a small step toward colorblindness in a country where racial record-keeping—required by many federal agencies—has long been the norm.

"DEI destroys competence while making Americans into enemies," said Arthur Milikh, the director of the Claremont Institute Center for the American Way of Life, one of the conservative groups supporting the bill. "This ideology must be fought, and its offices removed."