Air Force Cheating Scandal Widens

But Defense officials believe the cheating happened at only one of the Air Force’s ICBM bases.

National Journal
Jordain Carney
Jan. 29, 2014, 3:18 a.m.

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.