10 commanders booted in Air Force nuclear cheating scandal

 

The Air Force is firing nine commanders — and a 10th has resigned — in the fallout of a nuclear missile force cheating scandal.

The Air Force will also discipline dozens of junior officers who were implicated in cheating on monthly proficiency tests, which occurred over the course of two years dating back to November 2011.

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In 79 cases involving 91 officers, an Air Force investigation found evidence of cheating where airmen either received or requested test material, or knew about the cheating and did not take action.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced the Air Force would be making “dramatic” changes to the way that nuclear missileers are tested and would be spending money to help sustain the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) squads.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, said that ICBM commanders were overly concerned with perfect test scores, which is what compelled officers to cheat.

“Leadership’s focus on perfection led commanders to micromanage people,” Wilson said. “We also know that leaders placed too much emphasis on monthly test scores," he added, noting that the scores were used to determine who was promoted.

Wilson said that, while 90 percent was a passing score, “crew members felt pressure score 100 on each and every test.”

Col. Robert Stanley, who was commander of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, resigned on Thursday over the cheating scandal. Stanley will soon retire from the Air Force.

The other nine mid-level commanders are being removed from their posts, but they will be able to keep serving.

Wilson said the commanders being disciplined were not directly involved with the cheating.

The 91 officers who were connected to the cheating will receive discipline ranging from letters placed in their file to nonjudicial punishment and potentially courts-martial.

The cheating scandal, which was discovered amid an investigation of three airmen for drug use, has rocked the Air Force and raised questions about the health of the squadrons that operate ICBMs at three western bases.

James said Thursday she remained confident in the nuclear mission, despite the cheating and firings.

“I continue to have great confidence in this mission, as does the secretary of Defense,” James said at a briefing Thursday. “I also have great confidence in the team at Malmstrom.”

James said there are systemic problems in the ICBM force that have to be resolved to change the culture, including issues with micromanagement, morale and an overemphasis on cheating.

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