A new report by a Pentagon-funded think tank warns U.S. national security could be threatened by U.S. officials with dementia.
According to RAND Corporation, two trends could contribute to a national security threat, as people in the United States are “living longer” and “working later in life” than people in previous generations.
“As a result, the workforce might experience a higher prevalence of dementia than in past generations,” the study concluded. “Taken together, we believe that an increasing number of cleared personnel—that is, personnel who hold or have held security clearances—have or will have dementia.”
RAND Corporation’s report, which was released earlier this year, comes as multiple U.S. government officials have experienced public episodes that have resulted in a discussion surrounding age requirements in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.
Over the past several years, officials and the public alike have expressed concerns over President Joe Biden’s age and mental acuity, largely due to frequent gaffes and other public mishaps, such as falling on the stairs while boarding Air Force One.
Recently, there have been calls for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to step down after the senator froze twice during press conferences, as well as calls for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to resign as the 90-year-old senator has experienced multiple memory lapses, according to The Intercept.
The study pertaining to dementia as a national security threat was published by RAND Corporation’s National Security Research Division in April, claiming that U.S. officials with current and former access to classified information could pose a threat to U.S. national security if they develop dementia.
According to the study, the concern is that individuals with dementia could unintentionally reveal U.S. secrets.
“Individuals who hold or held a security clearance and handled classified material could become a security threat if they develop dementia and unwittingly share government secrets,” the study says.
“Our limited research suggests this concern is an emerging security blind spot,” it continues. “Considering the potential consequences of an inadvertent security breach stemming from cognitive impairment, we believe that further study of risk, recognition, and mitigation strategies is important.”
While most national security clearances require government officials to go through an intense vetting process that includes polygraphs and character interviews with previous associates, The Intercept reported that national security clearances do not appear to have any vetting process for those experiencing dementia or other forms of cognitive decline.
Despite multiple public mishaps causing many to question Biden’s mental fitness for office, the president continues to have more access than any other American to classified information. Additionally, The Intercept reported that current congressional leadership is the oldest in American history.
Business Insider reported that 23 percent of U.S. officials in Congress are over the age of 70, compared with only 4 percent of Congress over that age in 1981.
“As people live longer and retire later, challenges associated with cognitive impairment in the workplace will need to be addressed,” RAND Corporation’s report insists.