The Air Force Scandal That Just Won’t Go Away

The timeline of the alleged cheating has stretched from two months to two years.

National Journal
Jordain Carney
Add to Briefcase
Jordain Carney
March 27, 2014, 12:23 p.m.

The fal­lout from an Air Force cheat­ing scan­dal con­tin­ues to spread, and now a sig­ni­fic­ant por­tion of the lead­er­ship at a Montana nuc­le­ar base is get­ting sacked.

Nine of­ficers in lead­er­ship po­s­i­tions were re­com­men­ded for re­mov­al and are be­ing re­as­signed, with Air Force Col. Robert Stan­ley, who over­sees the mis­sile crew, resign­ing, Air Force Sec­ret­ary De­borah Lee James said Thursday.

The of­fi­cials wer­en’t in­volved in the re­por­ted cheat­ing, but James says “they failed to provide ad­equate over­sight of their crew force.”

And though Lt. Gen. Steph­en Wilson, com­mand­er of Air Force Glob­al Strike Force, couldn’t give the spe­cif­ic num­ber of lead­er­ship po­s­i­tions at the Montana base, he said the re­movals rep­res­ent a “sig­ni­fic­ant por­tion” of the chain of com­mand.

The duo an­nounced in late Janu­ary that 92 mis­silers — al­most half — at the base were be­ing in­vest­ig­ated for al­leged cheat­ing on a monthly pro­fi­ciency test, or for know­ing about the cheat­ing. James said Thursday that that num­ber had grown to 100 mis­sileers. So far nine have been cleared by in­vest­ig­at­ors.

The al­leged cheat­ing also went on sig­ni­fic­antly longer than the two-month peri­od of­fi­cials ori­gin­ally re­por­ted, with the in­vest­ig­a­tion sug­gest­ing that cheat­ing could have star­ted as early as Novem­ber 2011 and could have con­tin­ued un­til Novem­ber 2013.

But of­fi­cials re­main con­fid­ent after con­duct­ing an in­vest­ig­a­tion across the coun­try’s three nuc­le­ar mis­sile bases that the cheat­ing is only tied to the Montana base.

The Air Force’s in­vest­ig­a­tion poin­ted to four crew mem­bers “at the cen­ter” of the cheat­ing scan­dal in which test an­swers were re­portedly shared via cell­phone. Three of those four are also tied to an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to il­leg­al drug use.

James and Wilson stressed that they re­main con­fid­ent in the nuc­le­ar-mis­sile crew, but they are in­sti­tut­ing a series of re­forms in the wake of the far-reach­ing scan­dal in­clud­ing re­vamp­ing test­ing pro­ced­ures; look­ing at ways to re­dir­ect fund­ing to im­prove read­i­ness and qual­ity of life for the nuc­le­ar mis­sile crew; and re­form­ing the crew force’s cul­ture.

“If one per­son had spoken up this could have been very dif­fer­ent, and so that’s why we’re really fo­cus­ing on what in­teg­rity means,” James said.

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