Military Scandals Back in Spotlight

But senators stressed they believe the alleged cheating on tests doesn’t represent the nuclear forces as a whole.

National Journal
Jordain Carney
March 6, 2014, 9:06 a.m.

Sen­at­ors are circ­ling back to scan­dals that have plagued the nuc­le­ar forces this year, ahead of an end-of-the-month re­view dead­line ordered by De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel.

In late Janu­ary, top Air Force of­fi­cials said 92 of­ficer — nearly half of the in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­sile crew — at the Malmstrom Air Force base either al­legedly cheated on a monthly pro­fi­ciency ex­am or al­legedly knew about the al­leged cheat­ing. The al­leged cheat­ing was dis­covered dur­ing an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to al­leged il­leg­al drug use.

And last month, Adm. Jonath­an Green­ert, the Navy’s chief of nav­al op­er­a­tions, said the mil­it­ary branch has launched an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to al­leged cheat­ing among staff mem­bers at its nuc­le­ar train­ing school in Char­le­ston, S.C.

“Some of the cheat­ing scan­dals head­lines we’ve seen, some of the oth­er things, what has caused these?” In­di­ana Demo­crat Sen. Joe Don­nelly asked at an Armed Ser­vices sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing Wed­nes­day.

The hear­ing also comes in the wake of an As­so­ci­ated Press re­port that the Air Force Academy is look­ing in­to al­leged cheat­ing by 40 ca­dets.

“I keep com­ing back to 99.5 per­cent of our air­men are people we’re real proud of, they get it, they un­der­stand the im­port­ance of our mis­sion,” said Lt. Gen. Steph­en Wilson, the com­mand­er for the Air Force Glob­al Strike Com­mand.

And Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mark Ud­all of Col­or­ado said he un­der­stands the scan­dals aren’t rep­res­ent­at­ive of the lar­ger forces, adding that of­fi­cials should em­phas­ize “that we ex­pect a great deal from them, but above all, we must demon­strate that we care about their well-be­ing, their fam­il­ies, and their ca­reers.”

Top de­fense of­fi­cials have noted that the nuc­le­ar forces are of­ten isol­ated from the rest of the mil­it­ary and of­ten pub­licly over­looked. But Wilson ac­know­ledged that mil­it­ary of­fi­cials have “fo­cused on the cul­ture of per­fec­tion, and we know that hu­man be­ings aren’t per­fect.”

His com­ments echoed those earli­er this year by Air Force Sec­ret­ary De­borah Lee James. The ser­vice’s top of­fi­cial said, at the time, that mis­sileers “cheated be­cause they felt driv­en to get 100 per­cent,” and called it an un­healthy en­vir­on­ment.

And Wilson said the mil­it­ary is “in­vest­ig­at­ing all kinds of al­tern­at­ive meth­ods of how we train, test, and eval­u­ate,” in­clud­ing meet­ing with fam­il­ies and be­ha­vi­or­al psy­cho­lo­gists.

Wilson ad­ded that three re­views have been launched in the wake of the scan­dals, aimed at find­ing and re­com­mend­ing cor­rec­tions for any sys­tem­ic prob­lems in the nuc­le­ar forces.

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