In an ever-changing environment, risk takes on a more fluid form. Pinning down who or what is a threat in the U.S. nuclear space becomes more and more challenging in a world filled with disinformation and evolving circumstances. What exacerbates these efforts to identify individuals who pose a risk to nuclear security is the flaw in the underlying framework for how we assess insider threats.
For decades, the U.S. has constructed the image of a ‘threat’ to fit a very particular image – specifically an image of someone who doesn’t present as an ‘American.’ This default American image is almost always presented as a white individual, with people who fail to present in this way being subject to additional scrutiny. This ‘othering’ of non-white and otherwise ‘non-American’ presenting individuals reinforces problematic biases in national and nuclear security frameworks.
While insider threat assessments focus on personnel reliability programs and effective training, and existing literature is quick to acknowledge that there are flaws in frameworks designed to identify red flags, what isn’t discussed is the underlying bias in determining not only what constitutes a red flag at the organizational level, but also the individual biases that come into play when determining who or what is reported under these schemes.
By examining case studies and the implications of bias within the insider threat personnel reliability programs, this paper will highlight how diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DE&I) shortcomings within a facility’s nuclear security culture can exacerbate or create vulnerabilities related to insider threats. It will also examine how more inclusive policies that mitigate biases can strengthen personnel reliability programs to flag indicators of insider threat behavior to strengthen nuclear security against a wider variety of risks.