Ninety-two members of the nuclear-missile crew are being tied to a growing cheating scandal, Air Force officials said Thursday; that is nearly half of the intercontinental ballistic missile crew at the Montana base in question.
Officials said earlier this month that 34 officers at the Malmstrom Air Force Base were being tied to alleged cheating on a monthly proficiency exam. One officer texted answers to the test to 16 others, and another 17 came forward and said they knew about the test answers being shared.
But with Thursday’s update, more than half of the 190 crew members have “some level of involvement,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said, adding that — to her knowledge — the alleged cheating is contained to Malmstrom.
Of the 92 members, the Air Force alleges that 40 cheated, while 52 others were aware of the cheating.
The officers have been temporarily decertified while the investigation is ongoing. Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson said nonsuspended crew members are now “pulling additional alerts,” but stressed, “There’s been no operational impact.”
All officers were retested, with an average test score of approximately 95 percent.
Reports earlier this week suggested that roughly 70 members were being tied to the cheating, but a Pentagon spokesperson wouldn’t confirm exact numbers at the time.
James acknowledged that with the new findings, she believes there are “systemic problems” within the nuclear-missile force. One of those problems is the current environment, which she said has created a “need for perfection” that has created unnecessary stress and fear.
“I believe that a very terrible irony in this whole situation is that these missilers didn’t cheat to pass, they cheated because they felt driven to get 100 percent,” James said. “I think this is not a healthy environment. I think we need to relook at the way we do these tests.”
At the direction of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a 60-day review of the nuclear force is underway.
The cheating scandal was originally uncovered during an investigation for alleged illegal-drug use.
What We're Following See More »
"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."