By Jon Harper
Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON – Proficiency tests for nuclear launch officers might be too difficult, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Friday.
“There’s a testing issue here,” Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon. “We have a pretty significant and tight and unforgiving test curriculum and regimen that I’m not sure doesn’t need to be explored and examined in some detail.”
Earlier this month, 34 nuclear missile launch officers were implicated in a cheating scandal at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. At least one of the officers texted answers to a proficiency exam to other officers last year in August and September, officials said.
Hagel suggested the difficult nature of the tests and the career implications of failure might have encouraged the cheating.
“When you connect that with the high standards [and] expectation that every test you take, if you don’t make a 100 percent on every test then you’re eventually in a position where you probably minimize your chance for advancement,” Hagel said. “We’re going to take a look at how we train [and] continue to train and test all these young people who have who have this great responsibility. Standards must not be eroded, of course not, but is there a better way to do this [and] can we -- can we be more attuned to their interests?”
Former nuclear launch officers told the New York Times that cheating was widespread among missileers when they were in the Air Force because the test standards were so high.