Why National Security Needs Neurodiversity
Mar 27, 2023
This report provides analysis about neurodivergence and neurodiversity for the national security community and steps to achieve neurodiverse inclusivity. The authors describe the benefits that people with neurodivergence bring to national security; challenges in recruiting, working with, and managing a neurodiverse workforce; and barriers in national security workplaces that prevent agencies from realizing the full benefits of neurodiversity.
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 nation's most pressing challenges. 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.
Neurodivergent 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 Tourette's syndrome. Neurodivergent individuals are already part of the national security workforce.
The purpose of this report is to understand the benefits that people with neurodivergence bring to national security; 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. To carry out this research, the authors conducted a review of primary, secondary, and commercial literature; they conducted semistructured interviews and held discussions with government officials, researchers and advocates for the interests of neurodivergent populations, and representatives from large organizations that have neurodiversity employment programs; and they synthesized findings from across these tasks to describe the complex landscape for neurodiversity in large organizations in general and in national security specifically.
Why National Security Needs Neurodiversity
Accommodating Differences While Valuing Inclusivity
Recruiting Neurodivergent Talent for National Security
How to Work Successfully with a Neurodiverse Team
Recommendations and Conclusions for the U.S. Government
This research was conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD), which operates the RAND National Defense Research Institute (NDRI), a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense intelligence enterprise. This research was made possible by NDRI exploratory research funding that was provided through the FFRDC contract and approved by NDRI's primary sponsor.
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