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
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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