Dementia: A National Security Threat

RAND Corporation has recently released Could Dementia in the National Security Workforce Create a Security Threat?, a report detailing the increased risk for employees with both security clearances and dementia. In the U.S., an increase in the typical age of retirement, an increase in an older population, and longer life spans in general are all contributing to rising concern in the mental wellness of employees in the security sector. Another concerning factor is the reality that much of this sector is filled with military veterans who can be at an increased risk for dementia based on the previous development of posttraumatic stress disorder or other brain injuries. It is important to note that dementia, according to the report, can cause “poor judgment, impulsivity, [and] disorientation” in addition to difficulty remembering new information and general behavioral changes. While these symptoms remain similar across the various types of dementia, one type, Frontotemporal Dementia, is especially concerning as it typically impacts those under the age of 65.

Changes to the security clearance process will likely have to occur in order to help mitigate the potential risks of having national security personnel with dementia. Medically screening for dementia and interviewing those who may be privy to an individual’s cognitive well-being are a couple of options to ensure the absence of the impairment. Researching and understanding the underlying risks for dementia can be especially helpful in creating risk categories for security personnel which can serve as a basis for implementing proactive actions.

For additional information, check out the HSDL’s In Focus topic on Federal Workforce Challenges, or read other reports from the RAND Corporation.

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