The Air Force’s nuclear force is once again drawing negative attention after 34 launch officers have been stripped of their authority to control and launch nuclear-armed Minuteman III missiles because of their role in a cheating scandal at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.
Investigators became aware that cheating was taking place on a monthly proficiency test because of another investigation that has already implicated 11 junior officers in using illegal recreational drugs.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh revealed the cheating scandal in a hastily called Pentagon news conference.
The 34 officers, ranging in rank from second lieutenants to captains, have been restricted from missile crew duty and have had their security clearances suspended while the investigation continues.
There are 600 launch officers responsible for operating the Air Force’s fleet of 450 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Three bases are responsible for 150 of the missiles each, they are: Malmstrom AFB, in Montana; Minot AFB in North Dakota; and F.E. Warren AFB in Wyoming.
The launch officers spend 24 hours shifts in underground launch centers where they are responsible for ICBM missiles based in missile silos in the surrounding countryside.
Welsh said that the investigation determined that the officers had “electronically shared” answers via text messages for the monthly proficiency test conducted in August and September. Seventeen of the officers were directly involved in the cheating while the others were aware of it but did nothing about it.
As a result of the cheating, the Air Force has begun re-testing all 600 of its ICBM officers. The decertification impacts 34 of the 190 nuclear missile officers at Malmstrom.
Full article: Air Force Reveals 34 Nuclear Officers Involved in Cheating Scandal (ABC)