Thirty-four nuclear missile launch officers have been implicated in a cheating scandal and have been stripped of their certification, and three others have been implicated in a drug probe, in what the Air Force believes is the largest such breach of integrity in the nuclear force, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Wednesday.
The officers apparently texted to each other the answers to a monthly test on their knowledge of how to operate the missiles. The number includes who did the cheating as well as those who may have known about it but did not report it.
The cheating, which was discovered during a drug investigation that included two of the 34 officers, is the latest controversy involving the service members who maintain and operate the nation's 450 nuclear missiles.
In all, the drug scandal encompassed 11 Air Force officers across six bases in the U.S. and England. Of the three missile launch officers involved in the drug scandal, two were at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and one was at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. The two at Malmstrom were among those implicated in the cheating scandal.
James told a Pentagon news conference that 600 missile crew members across the Air Force were retaking the test, including nearly 200 at Malmstrom. She said that the missile force needs attention and that while immediate corrective action is being taken, Air Force leaders are planning to address some longer-term initiatives.
The Air Force said the alleged cheating took place late last summer.