AF secretary ‘picked up on morale issues’ at nuclear bases

On a tour of the bases operating the military’s land-based nuclear arsenal, the Air Force secretary said Wednesday she has “picked up on morale issues” affecting the airmen there.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James visited F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota this week, the three bases that house intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

James took her fact-finding tour, after the Air Force said last week that at least 34 nuclear officers were involved in a cheating scandal on nuclear proficiency tests, which was discovered during an investigation into drug allegations.

“I certainly wish that this would not have happened, but it did happen and it’s a problem,” James said at Minot of the cheating and drug scandals, according to The Associated Press.

Nevertheless, James said despite the issues, she remains confident in the “overall ability of the nuclear forces.”

"As far as I'm concerned, this mission is solid, and it is here to stay,” James said at F.E. Warren, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. "That doesn't mean there aren't tweaks that we need to make and changes that we need to make."

The drug and cheating scandals are the latest in a string of incidents involving the Air Force’s nuclear officers. The AP reported last year an unpublished study found cases of “burnout” and a missile wing unit had 19 launch crew members removed from duty for additional training after a poor test of launch operations.