Nuclear Commander: Less-Than-Perfect Test Scores Will Do

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Global Security Newswire Staff
April 21, 2014, 9:19 a.m.

The Air Force will move away from im­pli­citly re­quir­ing per­fect test scores from its nuc­le­ar mis­sile-launch of­ficers, the Wyom­ing Tribune Eagle re­ports.

The ser­vice form­ally re­quires a score of 90 per­cent for its mis­sileers to pass routine tests for cer­ti­fic­a­tion to serve in un­der­ground launch-con­trol cen­ters for the U.S. ar­sen­al of 450 Minute­man 3 in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­siles. However, there has of­ten been a ta­cit un­der­stand­ing in the ser­vice’s nuc­le­ar-mis­sile branch that of­ficers had to score 100 per­cent on the tests or risk see­ing their ca­reer pro­spects di­min­ished.

Air Force lead­ers have blamed that so-called “cul­ture of per­fec­tion” for mo­tiv­at­ing dozens of young launch-con­trol of­ficers to cheat on the ex­ams — or look the oth­er way when their col­leagues cheated. An of­fi­cial in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to test-tak­ing mis­con­duct at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., res­ul­ted in the ser­vice last month fir­ing a num­ber of mid-level of­ficers at the base for fail­ing to suf­fi­ciently su­per­vise the of­ficers be­neath them.

The com­mand­er of the 20th Air Force, which over­sees all Minute­man 3 mis­siles, told the Tribune Eagle that he is work­ing to shift how “per­fect” is con­strued. Still, he said the pub­lic should con­tin­ue to ex­pect that nuc­le­ar mis­siles will be handled without er­ror.

“You don’t have to be per­fect in test­ing, and you don’t have to be per­fect in train­ing,” Maj. Gen. Jack Wein­stein said. “But you do have to be per­fect when you are do­ing the mis­sion.”

The two-star gen­er­al said 350 re­com­mend­a­tions on how to im­prove the ICBM mis­sion have been re­ceived as part of an ex­pans­ive study that sur­veyed Air Force nuc­le­ar-mis­sile of­ficers and work crews. Wein­stein said he and oth­er ser­vice brass ac­cept nearly all of the re­com­mend­a­tions.

The test-cheat­ing rev­el­a­tions “may be a tough pill to swal­low, but I really be­lieve that with everything that has happened, good is go­ing to come out of this and make us stronger,” he said.

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