The United States Air Force (USAF) has suspended 34 officers in charge of launching nuclear missiles. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says they have been suspended for cheating on a proficiency test. “There was cheating that took place with respect to this particular test,” which was “absolutely unacceptable behavior.” This was discovered as part of an ongoing probe in nuclear missile facilities after a previous discovery of illegal activity relating to drugs.
This latest scandal centers around the Global Strike Command at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, which is also one of the subject bases in the ongoing drug investigation. The Air Force Secretary, who has only been on the job 4 weeks, said, “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.”
She also sought to separate the overall nuclear mission from the failures of a few officers, although at the Malmstrom base, 34 of 190 launch officers have been suspended.
At the present time, the already existing drug investigation involves 11 USAF officers on six separate bases in both the US and the UK. They were given as Edwards Air Force Base, Calififornia; Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado; Royal Air Force base Lakenheath in England; Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; and two bases that operate intercontinental ballistic missiles – F.E. Warren and Malmstrom.
The USAF investigation is based on the use of recreational drugs and at this time does not include any suggestion of drug smuggling of any kind.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was reported to be “deeply troubled” by what he was hearing as part of the investigation, as Sen. Mark Udall stated: “There simply is no room in our Air Force, and certainly in our nuclear enterprise, for this type of misconduct.”
All of the officers at Malmstrom bas have been decertified and will have to retake the tests by Thursday. Seventeen officers were decertified last year at Minot Air Force Base, ND, when they were found to be having poor performance and bad attitudes.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James was also quoted as saying the Missile Force “needs attention.”
In another incident, a two-star general was forced to resign after reports of misconduct. However, although both sexual misconduct and alcoholism were expressly denied in that case, it has been reported that drunken cavorting with two “hot” russian women was the ultimate cause of that resignation.
It has been strongly suggested that the conditions the men work under have led to cases of burnout. USAF Missile Officers work long shifts in underground bunkers where boredom is likely to be an issue.
There were regular reports of persistent low morale among the members of the USAF’s launch officers. They stand accused of deliberate violation of safety rules, inspection failures, and poor training standards. Whether this might have been a contributor to the alleged illicit possession of recreational drugs, and all the suspensions of the nuclear missile officers, will now be investigated. This is the largest incident of it’s kind to have ever been reported.
By Andrew Willig