Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley sent a letter to officials at the Department of Energy criticizing diversity training at Sandia National Laboratories, calling some aspects of the training “racially divisive.”
In one instance, Mr. Hawley, a Republican, objected to a free-association activity about white men.
“During the ‘White Men’s Caucus’ program, it appears that attendees were required to engage in a free-association project about ‘white men,’” Mr. Hawley wrote in the letter sent Thursday to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, undersecretary for Nuclear Security and administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. “Word associations included ‘MAGA hat,’ ‘Aryan Nation,’ ‘mass killings,’ ‘can’t dance,’ and ‘no rhythm.’”
The instances took place during training sessions at La Posada de Sante Fe hotel and resort during the summers of 2018 and 2019, the letter says.
A representative for Sandia sought to provide context about the training to The Washington Times on Friday, saying the portions highlighted in Mr. Hawley’s letter are “small components” of the lab’s overall efforts to build inclusion and diversity among staff.
“Sandia takes pride in its diversity programs that reach all levels of employees through policies, programs, processes and procedures designed to ensure nondiscrimination in all terms and conditions of employment, per the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” Sandia said in a statement.
The lab spokesperson said they had not heard from Mr. Hawley prior to the letter’s publication.
In the letter, Mr. Hawley noted that he failed to see “how this fixation” on race-based stereotypes benefited taxpayers. Other training, he noted, involved brainstorming of “assumptions” about white women and people of color. Mr. Hawley said the training might violate federal civil rights law, though he did not provide specific statutes.
Thirty percent of job holders at the nation’s 17 national laboratories are women, according to National Laboratory Directors’ Council website. The council — which notes it is committed to “advancing diversity and inclusion” in its workforce — says that 18% of its staff are “under-represented minorities,” with another 10% comprising Asian American and Pacific Islanders employees.
Sandia has historical roots in the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic weapon and is operated by Honeywell International. The lab contracts with the federal nuclear security program (NNSA) and is headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In fiscal 2019, Sandia received $3.8 billion in federal funding, with money going to weapons activities, nuclear nonproliferation and renewable energy programs, among others, according to the lab’s website.