The Air Force’s Scandal That Won’t Stop Spreading

Nearly half of the nuclear-missile crew members at one base are tied to alleged cheating on a monthly proficiency test.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
National Journal
Jordain Carney
Jan. 30, 2014, 9:01 a.m.

Ninety-two mem­bers of the nuc­le­ar-mis­sile crew are be­ing tied to a grow­ing cheat­ing scan­dal, Air Force of­fi­cials said Thursday; that is nearly half of the in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­sile crew at the Montana base in ques­tion.

Of­fi­cials said earli­er this month that 34 of­ficers at the Malmstrom Air Force Base were be­ing tied to al­leged cheat­ing on a monthly pro­fi­ciency ex­am. One of­ficer texted an­swers to the test to 16 oth­ers, and an­oth­er 17 came for­ward and said they knew about the test an­swers be­ing shared.

But with Thursday’s up­date, more than half of the 190 crew mem­bers have “some level of in­volve­ment,” Air Force Sec­ret­ary De­borah Lee James said, adding that — to her know­ledge — the al­leged cheat­ing is con­tained to Malmstrom.

Of the 92 mem­bers, the Air Force al­leges that 40 cheated, while 52 oth­ers were aware of the cheat­ing.

The of­ficers have been tem­por­ar­ily de­cer­ti­fied while the in­vest­ig­a­tion is on­go­ing. Lt. Gen. Steph­en Wilson said non­sus­pen­ded crew mem­bers are now “pulling ad­di­tion­al alerts,” but stressed, “There’s been no op­er­a­tion­al im­pact.”

All of­ficers were re­tested, with an av­er­age test score of ap­prox­im­ately 95 per­cent.

Re­ports earli­er this week sug­ges­ted that roughly 70 mem­bers were be­ing tied to the cheat­ing, but a Pentagon spokes­per­son wouldn’t con­firm ex­act num­bers at the time.

James ac­know­ledged that with the new find­ings, she be­lieves there are “sys­tem­ic prob­lems” with­in the nuc­le­ar-mis­sile force. One of those prob­lems is the cur­rent en­vir­on­ment, which she said has cre­ated a “need for per­fec­tion” that has cre­ated un­ne­ces­sary stress and fear.

“I be­lieve that a very ter­rible irony in this whole situ­ation is that these mis­silers didn’t cheat to pass, they cheated be­cause they felt driv­en to get 100 per­cent,” James said. “I think this is not a healthy en­vir­on­ment. I think we need to relook at the way we do these tests.”

At the dir­ec­tion of De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel, a 60-day re­view of the nuc­le­ar force is un­der­way.

The cheat­ing scan­dal was ori­gin­ally un­covered dur­ing an in­vest­ig­a­tion for al­leged il­leg­al-drug use.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×