By Jon Harper
Copyright 2014 Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, the Air Force’s top civilian and military leaders revealed that 34 nuclear missile launch officers were involved in a cheating scandal surrounding proficiency tests conducted last year at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. The 34 personnel constitute about 18 percent of the missile officers stationed there.
“There was cheating that took place with respect to this particular test. Some officers did it. Others apparently knew about it, and it appears that they did nothing, or at least not enough to stop it or to report it. Now this is absolutely unacceptable behavior and it is completely contrary to our core values in the Air Force,” new Air Force Secretary Deborah James told reporters at the Pentagon.
“Cheating or tolerating others who cheat runs counter to everything we believe in as a service. People at every level will be held accountable if and where appropriate,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said.
Over the weekend, the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigation found evidence that a missile launch officer from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom texted answers to monthly missile launch officer proficiency tests to 16 other officers.
“We subsequently approached the entire missile crew force at Malmstrom and 17 other officers who self-admitted to at least being aware of material that had been shared. We don’t yet know how or if each of those officers used that material, but we do know that none of them reported the incident to their leadership,” Welsh said.
Welsh said he is not aware of a cheating scandal this large in the entire history of the missile force.
All 34 involved have been decertified as launch officers. They are restricted from missile crew duty and their security clearances have been suspended. The OSI investigation into their individual involvement and the overall cheating scandal will continue, Welsh said. The officers vary in rank from second lieutenant to captain.
The Malmstrom wing failed a nuclear security inspection last August due to “a problem in a security scenario,” but the failure was not related to carrying out operational procedures, Welsh said.