Neurodiversity and National Security

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

Event Details


Tuesday, March 28, 2023


3:00 – 4:00 p.m. Eastern

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Neurodiversity and National Security: A Discussion about Opportunities

Neurodiversity—that is, the full range of cognitive functioning, including both neurotypical and neurodivergent people—is to some extent already present in the national security enterprise. But how neurodiversity can enhance the national security mission is poorly understood, and current policies and practices create hurdles to fully realizing the benefits of neurodiversity, in both the military and civilian workforces.

Please join RAND's National Security Research Division on Tuesday, March 28, 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Eastern for the launch of Neurodiversity and National Security: How to Tackle National Security Challenges with a Wider Range of Cognitive Talents, a new report by Cortney Weinbaum, Omair Khan, Teresa D. Thomas, and Bradley D. Stein.

Suzanne Wilson Heckenberg, president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, will moderate a panel discussion about the benefits of a more neurodiverse national security workforce, the challenges in recruiting, working with, and managing a neurodiverse workforce, and the barriers in national security workplaces that prevent agencies from realizing the full benefits of neurodiversity.


Suzanne Wilson Heckenberg

Suzanne Wilson Heckenberg (moderator)

President of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, and the Intelligence and National Security Foundation

Suzanne Wilson Heckenberg became president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA, 501c6) and the Intelligence and National Security Foundation (INSF, 501c3) on December 1, 2019. As president, Suzanne oversees INSA's finances, strategic planning, marketing, events, and corporate partnerships. She leads strategic initiatives across the organization focused on building the association's brand, strengthening member value, and growing and diversifying member ranks. Since 2010, Suzanne has held various leadership positions at INSA, most recently serving as the organization's first Chief Operating Officer. She was the driving force behind INSA's expansion into markets outside the Washington, DC region, as well as its popular, The New IC symposium, which focuses on diversity with inclusion in the intelligence community. Suzanne works closely with the executive leadership team, advisory committee, and members of the board of directors to direct policy initiatives and programs on issues that are key to the intelligence and national security community. Prior to INSA, she served as Vice President of Marketing for Ripple Communications, a woman-owned strategic communications firm. Suzanne is a graduate of Auburn University, she and her husband have 5 children and live in Alexandria, Virginia.

Teresa Thomas

Teresa Thomas

Program Lead, Neurodiverse Talent Enablement; Cyber Engagement, Lead, The MITRE Corporation

Teresa Thomas is The MITRE Corporation's Program Lead for Neurodiverse Talent Enablement and has a long history of advocacy for neurodiverse populations. She has been a house parent in a group home for adults with high support needs, is now a parent of an adult on the autism spectrum and is active in the MITRE Corporation's Inclusion and Diversity programs.

Teresa brought together an advisory council consisting of private organizations, universities, self-advocates, and federal agencies to develop and pilot the Neurodiverse Federal Workforce program. She also designed and now spearheads MITRE's internal neurodiversity internship program. Both programs focus on providing opportunities and support for neurodivergent individuals in cybersecurity and other technical roles.

She is passionate about the topic and speaks widely about MITRE's programs, and neurodiversity in general, and is regularly interviewed as a subject matter expert in the area. She speaks often at federal agency events and has been featured at the National Cyber Summit, the RSA Conference, and on Bloomberg TV.

Cortney Weinbaum

Cortney Weinbaum

Senior Management Scientist, The RAND Corporation

Cortney Weinbaum (she/her) is a senior management scientist at the RAND Corporation. She specializes in intelligence and space topics, and she has worked with the Intelligence Community (IC) and Department of Defense to improve policies, practices, and technologies. She has improved analytic and collection tradecraft; identified emerging technologies and their impact on space architectures, special operations, countering weapons of mass destruction, and intelligence; and examined new workforce models for intelligence agencies. She facilitated cross-discipline teams to apply structured analytic techniques to intractable intelligence topics, and she has applied wargaming and scenario-based planning against both operational and enterprise topics.

Weinbaum led two teams to receive the Director of National Intelligence's Meritorious Unit Citation for advancing the IC's knowledge of two intractable intelligence topics. Since joining RAND, she has studied emerging technologies and their implications for intelligence; unclassified intelligence; the ethics of scientific research; and other topics. She began her career as an intelligence officer developing radio frequency and electromagnetic MASINT collection systems. Weinbaum earned her B.S. in physics from the University of Michigan.

Weinbaum is the lead author of Neurodiversity and National Security: How to Tackle National Security Challenges with a Wider Range of Cognitive Talents.


For questions about the event, please contact Sharlyn Harlequin at