Uncharted Territory: Does Dementia Threaten US National Security?

Posted in: Andy Oxide, MPN, News, Updates


Pentagon-Funded Study Highlights Threat Posed by Cognitive Decline Among U.S. Leaders

As the American national security workforce ages, a groundbreaking study funded by the Pentagon has sounded the alarm about the potential threat posed by dementia among U.S. officials.

The report, published by the RAND Corporation’s National Security Research Division in April, outlines how dementia could jeopardize our national security by raising concerns that individuals with access to classified information may inadvertently disclose government secrets.

The study has placed a spotlight on the growing concern about cognitive decline among U.S. leaders, as several prominent officials entrusted with classified intelligence have recently experienced public lapses.

Notably, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have both faced health episodes that have raised questions about their cognitive abilities.

McConnell, who holds one of the highest security clearances in Congress as a member of the “Gang of Eight” congressional leadership, recently experienced yet another freezing episode.

“The president called to check on me,” McConnell said when asked about the first episode.

“I told him I got sandbagged,” he quipped, referring to President Joe Biden’s trip-and-fall incident during a June graduation ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, which sparked conservative criticisms about the 80-year-old’s own functioning.

On the other hand, Feinstein, at the age of ninety, has exhibited signs of confusion, memory lapses, and even forgetfulness regarding her extended absence.

Both senators have been closely involved in intelligence matters, with Feinstein still serving on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The RAND Corporation’s study elaborated on the vulnerability that individuals with a history of handling classified information face when they develop dementia.

Such individuals, who may inadvertently disclose sensitive government secrets due to cognitive impairment, could pose a significant national security risk.

Despite the increasing prevalence of dementia among aging Americans, there has been a surprising lack of research on this issue, especially concerning individuals with access to classified information.

The study outlines the emerging security blind spot associated with cognitive impairment in the workplace.

Most officials with security clearances undergo extensive vetting procedures that include polygraph tests, character interviews, and ongoing monitoring of personal information.

However, the study points out a glaring omission in these procedures – they do not consider age-related cognitive decline.

While the study does not mention specific officials by name, it arrives at a time when the age of political leaders has become a topic of national debate.

McConnell’s recent episode sparked a surge in Google searches for “gerontocracy,” reflecting the growing public concerns about rule by the elderly.

President Joe Biden’s age has also raised questions among voters, with a significant percentage of Democrats expressing doubts about his ability to serve another term.

The President of the United States holds unparalleled authority over classified information, making their cognitive fitness of utmost importance.

However, the current U.S. leadership is not only the oldest in history but also includes a significant number of rather elderly members of Congress.

In just a few decades, the proportion of Congress members over the age of seventy has skyrocketed from 4 percent in 1981 to 23 percent in 2022.

Reports from 2017 even suggested that a pharmacist had filled Alzheimer’s prescriptions for multiple members of Congress.

The lack of incentives for elected officials to disclose such illnesses makes it challenging to assess the extent of the problem.

In Feinstein’s case, her staff has gone to great lengths to hide her cognitive decline, implementing measures to prevent her from interacting with reporters without supervision.

Despite the public controversy surrounding cognitive decline among officials, there is little indication that any of them will resign or opt not to seek reelection.

This was evident when 83-year-old Speaker Emerita Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) surprised observers by announcing her candidacy for a 19th term, signaling that age may not be a significant deterrent for politicians.

In this increasingly complex and fast-paced world of politics, the question of whether aging officials with cognitive impairments can effectively fulfill their roles while safeguarding national security remains a pressing concern.

As the debate rages on, it’s clear that more attention needs to be paid to the intersection of aging leadership, dementia, and national security.

Read the original story here:

The Intercept



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aging officials Alzheimer's disease cognitive decline Congressional leadership dementia gerontocracy National Security Pentagon-funded study public health episodes security clearance U.S. leaders

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