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Neurodiversity and National Security: How to Tackle National Security Challenges with a Wider Range of Cognitive Talents


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National security organizations need highly skilled and intellectually creative individuals who are eager to apply their talents to address the nations most pressing challenges. Government officials and industry representatives describe the high stakes of the national security threats facing the United States; the demand for a STEM-skilled1 and technology-savvy workforce; and the need to fill jobs that require enormous attention to detail, precision, and a low tolerance for errors.2 In public and private discussions, officials and experts addressed the need for neurodiversity in the national security community. They described missions that are too important and too difficult to be left to those who use their brains only in typical ways.3Neurodivergent is an umbrella term that covers a variety of cognitive diagnoses, including(but not exclusive to) autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyscalculia, and Tourettes syndrome. Neurodivergent individuals are already part of the national security workforce. They are serving as intelligence officers, engineers, security clearance investigators, military service members, and more. Some are senior managers, and it is likely that some are high-ranking executives. However, many of these individuals do not openly acknowledge their neurodivergence for fear of discrimination and bias, and some actively attempt to hide their neurodivergence, sacrificing energy that could be directed at their mission while relying on the talents their differences provide.4



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