Air Force Fires Nine Nuclear Missile Commanders for Cheating Scandal

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 27 2014 7:13 PM

Air Force Fires Nine Nuclear Missile Commanders for Cheating Scandal

480913333-secretary-of-the-air-force-deborah-lee-james-and-air
Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James (R) and Air Force Global Strike Command Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, during a Pentagon briefing on the cheating investigation.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Air Force announced on Thursday it had reassigned nine officers as the result of an investigation into a widespread cheating scandal among the nuclear missile launch personnel at Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base. The commander of the base also resigned. What started as a probe of potential drug use, uncovered systematic cheating by some 100 crewman on monthly Intercontinental Ballistic Missile proficiency exams. The officers “allegedly shared answers to job proficiency test answers by text message and by exchanging photographs of tests,” officials told the Washington Post.

None of the nine midlevel officers dismissed were directly involved in the cheating scandal. According to the New York Times, “nearly the entire chain of command at Malmstrom was fired, not for cheating, Air Force officials said, but for not knowing that nearly half of the base’s missile launch crew either were cheating or knew about the cheating.” The head of the Air Force's Global Strike Command, Reuters reports, described the problem this way: “the root of the problem was the emphasis on perfection in the nuclear mission at the Montana base and throughout the missile force, which led to cheating on exams in an effort to achieve the sort of perfect scores perceived to required for advancement and promotion.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.