Not only do high school kids cheat on their exams, but so do Air Force officers in charge of the nation’s nuclear missiles according to new findings released by the Air Force. At a news conference, secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James revealed that all in all 34 officers took part in a cheating operation that involved texting answers to officers during their monthly proficiency tests required for them to operate nuclear launching devices.
The investigation into drug possession by 11 officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana uncovered the devious crime of cheating amongst other officers. It was unveiled in their texting records that a launch officer sent text messages to 16 others taking their monthly test, while a number of other officers were aware of the situation.
Observers are saying that while scandals are pretty common amongst such prominent institutions as the Air Force, this one is particularly disturbing, just for the simple fact that it involves officers cheating on nuclear launch exams, an area where one error could be catastrophic.
Montana representatives have weighed in on the situation, saying that they are “disappointed” with the officers’ conduct.
Rep. Steve Daines from Montana said he is “deeply concerned” but has faith that the Air Force will work to mitigate any potential damages from the situation and “take corrective action.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that he was “deeply troubled” by the allegations and that the Air Force should aggressively take steps in responding to the delinquent officers.
Meanwhile the officers who are accused in the allegations are “no longer certified” to take part in nuclear operations. Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh assured the press that Malmstrom Air Force base has enough officers on hand to fill in the void left behind by the dismissal of so many others.
General Welsh went on to say that the threat of the nuclear missiles being launched by cheating officers is not really the issue at hand, but rather the “compromise of the integrity of some of our airmen.” General Walsh said that the Air Force will not “accept or allow that type of behavior.”
Following the revelations, the Air Force has mandated that all officers on base be re-tested.
Malmstrom Airforce base is the operation site for about a third of 450 minuteman III nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Other critics are saying that the Air Force is actually partially at fault for the misconduct, seeing that the guidelines for passing the proficiency exams are unrealistically high. Former Minuteman missile launch control officer Bruce G. Blair told the New York Times that officers “routinely cheated,” because the Air Force mandated that test takers score a perfect 100 percent to continue working as officers. “It’s an impossible standard,” said Mr. Blair.
The revelations follow other Air Force misconduct allegations aimed at Maj. Gen. Michael J. Carey, who was removed as commander of the 20th Air Force after “drunken antics” during an official trip to Moscow over the summer. Reportedly the officer was stumbling through Red Square, “slurring his speech,” and harassing various locals.
The Air Force says its investigation is still underway and will work to remedy the situation in the coming days.
by John Amaruso