The number of nuclear missile crew members accused of cheating has approximately doubled, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced Jan. 15 that 34 officers at the Air Force nuclear missile base in Montana are accused of cheating on a monthly proficiency exam. Sixteen of the 34 cheated, she said, while another 17 came forward and said they knew about the test answers being shared via text message.
An official told the Associated Press that it is unclear whether the additional officers participated in the cheating directly or are suspected of having knowledge of it.
With Tuesday’s announcement, about 70 officers are now linked to the investigation, which is ongoing. Like the 34 officers implicated earlier this month, the additional 36 officers are being temporarily removed from duty while the investigation continues. Officials believe the cheating took place around August or September, and they don’t think it has spread to the other two nuclear bases.
The scandal is the latest in an increasingly battered nuclear-missile force. News of suspected illegal drug use broke earlier this month around the same time that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited one of the three intercontinental ballistic-missile bases.
Referring to the cheating scandal Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said he doesn’t know “of any incident” that decertified so many officers at once.