Cheating Scandal Brings Down Nine Air Force CommandersCourtesy: US Defense Department
Nine Air Force commanders have been fired over a cheating scandal related to their nuclear training program. The move is to move forward on a scandal that is much bigger than originally thought. Junior level officers will also be disciplined over the scandal. The cheating continued for 2 years and has become a major thorn in the side for those involved in the nuclear training of the Air Force.
The Air Force fired nine mid-level nuclear commanders Thursday and will discipline dozens of junior officers at a nuclear missile base in response to an exam-cheating scandal that spanned a far longer period than originally reported.
Air Force officials called the moves unprecedented in the history of the intercontinental ballistic missile force. The Associated Press last year revealed a series of security and other problems in the nuclear force, including a failed safety and security inspection at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., where the cheating happened.
In a bid to correct root causes of the missile corps’ failings — including low morale and weak management — the Air Force also announced a series of new or expanded programs to improve leadership development, to modernize the three ICBM bases and to reinforce “core values” including integrity.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, the service’s top civilian official, had promised to hold officers at Malmstrom accountable once the cheating investigation was completed and the scope of the scandal was clear. None of the nine fired commanders was directly involved in the cheating, but each was determined to have failed in his or her leadership responsibilities.
Investigators determined that the cheating, which officials originally said happened in August or September last year, began as early as November 2011 and continued until November 2013, according to a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to reveal details before James’ announcement. It involved unauthorized passing of answers to exams designed to test missile launch officers’ proficiency in handling “emergency war orders,” which are messages involving the targeting and launching of missiles.
When the cheating was first revealed, Air Force leaders condemned it as violating the most basic Air Force values. They also suggested that it reflected an unhealthy pressure from commanders to achieve perfect test scores. The tests are one part of a training and evaluation system that is supposed to ensure that every one of the more than 500 missile launch officers is fully proficient.