Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced Wednesday an investigation of cheating by 34 nuclear missile officers. (Scott Ash / Air Force)
Thirty-four missile officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., have been implicated in the largest occurrence of cheating in the Air Force’s nuclear force, top Air Force leaders said Wednesday.
Agents with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, while investigating reports of narcotics possession at Malmstrom, found that a nuclear missile officer with the 341st Missile Wing allegedly texted the answers to a monthly missile launch officer test to 16 other missile officers. Seventeen other officers admitted to at least knowing of the cheating, without reporting the activity to their higher-ups, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at a Pentagon briefing.
Two of the 34 officers are implicated in both the cheating and narcotics possession investigations.
Even with the seemingly constant drip of bad news related to intercontinental ballistic missile crews, Air Force leaders maintain their confidence in the nuclear missile force.
“This is not about the compromise of nuclear weapons, it’s about compromise of the integrity of some of our airmen,” Welsh said.
The investigation includes 34 of about 190 missile officers at Malmstrom. Welsh said he doesn’t yet know if any of those involved were supervisors. The airmen were reportedly second lieutenants through captains.
The test was in the August to September time frame, and as a result, all nuclear missile officers will be retested by close of business Thursday. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, 100 officers have been retested, with three failures, Welsh said.
Going forward, Air Force Global Strike Command has directed nuclear surety inspections at the three missile wings: Malmstrom; F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; and Minot Air Force Base, N.D.
James, Welsh and Navy Adm/ Cecil Haney, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, will each visit the ICBM bases in the coming weeks to oversee the response to the investigation.
James said that it is too early to say if any others will be implicated in the investigation but that “everybody is accountable. There’s nobody who escapes accountability in the Air Force.”