WASHINGTON – Top U.S. defence and military officials worked Wednesday to figure out what systemic personnel problems within the Air Force’s nuclear missile corps have caused problems ranging from low morale to cheating and serious security lapses.
Officials are exploring whether there are cultural problems within the nuclear force that make crew members more willing and able to cheat on proficiency tests, Kirby said, the latest revelation in a growing morass of problems among the men and women who maintain and staff the nation’s nuclear missiles.
The number of officers in the nuclear corps who have been implicated in a cheating investigation has more than doubled to at least 70, officials said Tuesday. That means that at least 14 per cent of all launch officers have been decertified and suspended from missile launch duties.
All are at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, which is responsible for 150 Minuteman 3 nuclear missiles, or one-third of the entire Minuteman 3 force. The officials who disclosed the higher number spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information by name while the investigation is ongoing.
The Air Force announced on Jan. 15 that while it was investigating possible criminal drug use by some airmen, it discovered that one missile officer at Malmstrom had shared test questions with 16 other officers. It said another 17 admitted to knowing about this cheating but did not report it.
The Air Force has 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, on alert at all times, with a contingent of about 500 launch control officers, some number of which are unavailable on any given day due to illness or other reasons. So the number temporarily unavailable for duty because of the cheating scandal is substantial. It was not clear Tuesday how that affects the mission, beyond requiring the remaining crew members to bear a bigger share of the work.
Each day, a total of 90 officers work in pairs inside 45 underground launch control centres, with each centre monitoring and controlling a group of 10 ICBMs. They work 24-hour shifts in the missile field and then return to their base. They generally do as many as eight of these shifts per month.
Full article: Officials: Systemic personnel problems may exist within Air Force’s nuclear missile corps (Vancouver Sun)