Minot Missileers Did Worse Than Earlier Thought on 2013 Inspection

Global Security Newswire Staff
March 14, 2014, 8:49 a.m.

U.S. mis­sile launch-con­trol of­ficers at a base in North Dakota per­formed worse than was ori­gin­ally un­der­stood on a March 2013 read­i­ness in­spec­tion.

The mis­sileers at Minot Air Force Base would have flunked their part of the live ex­am­in­a­tion were it not for the su­per­i­or scores earned by oth­ers on the mis­sile-op­er­a­tions team, in­clud­ing cook staff and fa­cil­ity man­agers, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­por­ted on Thursday. The com­pil­a­tion of scores meant that the 91st Mis­sile Wing earned the equi­val­ent of a “D” rat­ing for its demon­strated know­ledge of Minute­man 3 in­ter­con­tin­ent­al bal­list­ic-mis­sile fir­ing pro­ced­ures.

The per­form­ance and at­ti­tude is­sues of some Minot mis­sileers was so poor dur­ing the in­spec­tion that cer­ti­fic­a­tions for 19 launch of­ficers were taken away last April.

Of 11 mis­sile crew per­son­nel tested on a launch sim­u­lat­or dur­ing the re­view, three of­ficers re­ceived an “un­qual­i­fied” rat­ing, which the Air Force char­ac­ter­izes as show­ing “an un­ac­cept­able level of safety, per­form­ance or know­ledge.”

Sub­sequent in­spec­tions of the Minot mis­sileers have res­ul­ted in ex­cel­lent grades.

A form­al Air Force in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the reas­ons for the poor 2013 in­spec­tion found that a core con­trib­ut­ing factor was in­ad­equate util­iz­a­tion of reg­u­lar, writ­ten pro­fi­ciency ex­ams. The in­vest­ig­a­tion found that Minot seni­or of­ficers did not en­cour­age a “cul­ture of ac­count­ab­il­ity” and failed to en­sure that test-tak­ing was su­per­vised.

“‘Group test­ing’ was viewed as ‘tak­ing care of each oth­er,’” reads one Air Force doc­u­ment, ac­quired by AP.

Minot thus far has not been im­plic­ated in an Air Force probe in­to cheat­ing by mis­sileers on routine pro­fi­ciency ex­ams. That in­vest­ig­a­tion to date has fo­cused on Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, where more than 90 launch of­ficers have been benched for either dir­ect or in­dir­ect in­volve­ment in a test-cheat­ing ring. However, the rev­el­a­tions about a lax ex­am­in­a­tion en­vir­on­ment at Minot sug­gest that cheat­ing could be a prob­lem at the North Dakota base, as well, ac­cord­ing to AP.

Mul­tiple re­cent scan­dals in the Air Force’s ICBM mis­sion in­volving cheat­ing, drug pos­ses­sion and fail­ure to fol­low se­cur­ity rules promp­ted De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel to or­der a whole­sale re­view of per­son­nel is­sues in­side the mil­it­ary’s vari­ous nuc­le­ar activ­it­ies. The Air Force says it is study­ing op­tions for re­form­ing its mis­sileer cul­ture.

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