Air Force cheating investigation leads to dismissals

WASHINGTON — The Air Force announced Thursday it is relieving nine nuclear missile commanders in connection with a widespread test cheating scandal that implicated dozens of missile crewmen under their charge.

The commanders, most of them colonels and lieutenant colonels, were not involved in the cheating, but were relieved for failing to provide proper supervision and leadership. An additional commander submitted his resignation and will retire.

The commanders were relieved in the wake of an investigation into the cheating at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the investigation found a range of problems in the nuclear missile community, including the micromanagement of subordinates and "spotty morale."

The investigation determined that commanders created a climate where relentless pursuit toward perfect test scores led to an "unhealthy" environment.

"They sought to ensure that the zero defect standard was met by personally monitoring and directing daily operations ... with the goal of eliminating all human error," said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command.

The Air Force said it will change how it trains and tests missile crewmen. The crewmen man underground command centers where they remain for 24-hour shifts, and are responsible for launching missiles when ordered.

The Air Force said the system was not compromised by the allegations of cheating.

The investigation was initially launched to investigate reports of drug use among missile crewmen. The investigation found that some officers were sharing the answers to monthly tests through text messages.

The investigation determined that dozens of crewmen participated in the cheating ring, or knew of it and did not report it. Most were lieutenants and captains who manned missile silos.

They face a range of discipline, including possible courts-martial.

The cheating is alleged to have taken place between November 2011 and November 2013.


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