A Pass-Fail Exam Is All That Stands Between Air Force Officers and Nuclear Missile Codes

The change comes in the wake of a high-profile cheating scandal that revealed a de facto expectation that perfect test scores were needed for advancement.

National Journal
Rachel Oswald
Add to Briefcase
Rachel Oswald
April 23, 2014, 9:19 a.m.

The Air Force is sim­pli­fy­ing the way it grades nuc­le­ar-mis­sile of­ficers on their monthly ex­ams, the ser­vice’s top-rank­ing of­ficer said on Wed­nes­day.

The ser­vice has “made the monthly [cer­ti­fic­a­tion] test pass-fail,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said at a Wash­ing­ton event. His re­marks come in the wake of a high-pro­file cheat­ing scan­dal at a Montana base that re­vealed a de facto ex­pect­a­tion that per­fect test scores were needed for ad­vance­ment up the ranks.

Welsh did not say in his re­marks at the Na­tion­al Press Club what per­cent­age of cor­rect an­swers would be needed to pass the thumbs-up-or-down pro­fi­ciency tests. It was pre­vi­ously re­por­ted that launch-con­trol of­ficers needed a score of at least 90 per­cent on each ex­am to main­tain au­thor­iz­a­tion to key in a fir­ing code for one of the coun­try’s 450 ground-based stra­tegic mis­siles.

An Air Force in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to drug-use al­leg­a­tions un­covered cheat­ing on cer­ti­fic­a­tion tests at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., and res­ul­ted in the ser­vice earli­er this year fir­ing nine mid-level of­ficers at the base for their fail­ure to de­tect and re­port the mis­con­duct. Welsh said the wrong­do­ing in­volved about 40 per­cent of each of the 341st Mis­sile Wing’s three squad­rons.

The mis­sile wing main­tains and op­er­ates 150 Minute­man 3 in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic mis­siles. Air Force bases in Wyom­ing and North Dakota each host an equi­val­ent num­ber of the nuc­le­ar-armed mis­siles.

Ser­vice brass have at­trib­uted the cheat­ing at Malmstrom to a “cul­ture of per­fec­tion” that led mis­sileers to be­lieve their ca­reers would suf­fer if they did not get test scores of 100 per­cent. Though of­fi­cials said they did not un­cov­er any test-tak­ing mis­con­duct at bases in North Dakota and Wyom­ing, ex-mis­sile launch of­ficers have said cheat­ing has been rampant for years throughout the ICBM of­ficer corps.

“The people who cheated, the people who were break­ing the law, who were break­ing our rules and policies in­ten­tion­ally, they don’t have a fu­ture with us. That’s not how we op­er­ate,” Welsh said.

He said the ser­vice is work­ing to quickly im­ple­ment qual­ity-of-life changes for nuc­le­ar-mis­sile per­son­nel that were sug­ges­ted in a re­cent grass­roots sur­vey. Some of those fixes in­volve em­power­ing lower-level of­ficers to make more de­cisions.

“We’re try­ing hard to elim­in­ate an idea that you can nev­er make a de­cision, [that] your most-seni­or boss al­ways has to be the one mak­ing the call,” the four-star gen­er­al said. “There are a lot of things that we need to be do­ing in that busi­ness at the low­est level of au­thor­ity.”

What We're Following See More »
TRUMP CONTINUES TO LAWYER UP
Kasowitz Out, John Dowd In
3 days ago
THE LATEST

As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."

Source:
ALSO INQUIRES ABOUT PARDON POWER
Trump Looking to Discredit Mueller
3 days ago
THE LATEST

President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.

Source:
INCLUDES NY PROBE INTO MANAFORT
Why Yes, Mueller Is Looking into Trump Businesses
3 days ago
THE LATEST

In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."

Source:
Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions
3 days ago
THE DETAILS

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."

Source:
ANALYSIS FROM CBO
32 Million More Uninsured by 2026 if Obamacare Repealed
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login