Launch airmen cheat on exams that test readiness in times of emergency
WASHINGTON — At what point do breakdowns in discipline put the country's nuclear security in jeopardy?
And when does a string of embarrassing episodes in arguably the military's most sensitive mission become a pattern of failure?
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is concerned “there could be something larger afoot here,” according to his chief spokesman, and “wants this taken very, very seriously.”
The disclosures of disturbing behavior by nuclear missile officers are mounting and now include alleged drug use and exam cheating. Yet Air Force leaders insist the trouble is episodic, correctible and not cause for public worry.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, just four weeks into her tenure as the service's top civilian official, told reporters Wednesday that the Air Force's chief investigative arm is investigating 11 officers at six bases who are suspected of illegal drug possession.
She said that probe led to a separate investigation of dozens of nuclear missile launch officers for cheating on routine tests of their knowledge of the tightly controlled procedures required to launch missiles under their control.
At least 34 launch officers, all at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., have had their security clearances suspended and are not allowed to perform launch duties pending the outcome of the investigation.
They stand accused of cheating, or tolerating cheating by others, on a routine test of their knowledge of how to execute “emergency war orders.” Those are the highly classified procedures the officers would use, upon orders from the president, to launch their nuclear-tipped missiles.
The commander at Malmstrom, Col. Robert W. Stanley II, said in a telephone interview Friday it's not “off base” to think that the cheating points to a deeper problem in the intercontinental ballistic missile force.
“But I do think it's far more than just us. I think this is a sort of cultural thing our society is going through” in which too many people have grown accustomed to “putting blinders on and just walking past problems.”
This is reflected in the cheating scandal, he said, where 17 of the 34 did not cheat but knew about the cheating and failed to report it.
“In ICBMs, we can't tolerate that,” Stanley said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Global warming is slowing down the circulation of the oceans — with potentially dire consequences
- Santorum: Obama opposition to fossil fuels ‘quasi-religious’
- Lawmakers press Veterans Affairs for improved access to rural health care
- Big croc predated dinosaurs, roamed North Carolina region
- Texas Sen. Cruz kicks off presidential campaign at Christian college
- Police find no evidence in 5-month investigation of UVA rape allegations
- Military leaders leery of letting in transgenders
- Budget blueprint adopted by GOP will pit doves and hawks