Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

Air Force Meets Skepticism in Claim on Extent of Missile-Control Exam Cribbing

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, head of Global Strike Command, brief reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday on the results of an internal probe into test-cheating among the nuclear-missile officer corps. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, head of Global Strike Command, brief reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday on the results of an internal probe into test-cheating among the nuclear-missile officer corps. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force is meeting skepticism in its top officials' assertions on Thursday that there are no indications of test-cheating beyond a Montana missile base.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced the service had dismissed nine midlevel Malmstrom Air Force Base officers for failure to "provide adequate oversight" of the junior crew who were found to have participated in or known about cheating on exams of missile-launch procedures, but chose not to report it, according to the New York Times.

Additionally, the commander of the base, Col. Robert Stanley, turned in his resignation on Thursday, as Global Security Newswire was first to report.

Each of three bases -- Malmstrom in Montana, Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota -- controls 150 of the nation's arsenal of 450 Minuteman 3 nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Air Force Global Strike Command head Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson told reporters that Pentagon personnel had interviewed officers at Minot and Warren, but did come across any evidence that merited expanding the inquiry.

"We went where the evidence took us," Wilson said.

However, current and former nuclear-missile officers are doubtful that the test-taking misconduct was confined just to Malmstrom, as the cultural factors apparently motivating the cheating have been present across the service's entire nuclear-missile officer corps.

"It's implausible," former missile-launch control officer Bruce Blair said. "The Air Force is either in denial, or it muffed the investigation. Cheating has been extensive and pervasive at all the missile bases going back for decades."

The discovery of cheating at Malmstrom happened as a result of a separate probe into drug possession by some missileers at the base. Evidence was found in text messages on the cell phones of some of the officers implicated in the drug investigation.

Wilson said no Air Force probe was opened into cheating at the other ICBM bases, as doing so would violate the airmen's right to privacy, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Meanwhile, the 90th Missile Wing at Warren announced it had sacked the commander of its missile squadrons, Col. Donald Holloway, due to "a loss of confidence in his ability to lead," the Associated Press reported. No specifics were offered for his firing, though the missile wing said it had "nothing to do" with the other dismissals announced in Washington.

NTI Analysis

  • Russian Ballistic Missile Models

    May 14, 2014

    This page contains interactive 3D missile models for Russia. Users can drag the model by pressing and holding their mouse’s scroll wheel. They can zoom in and out on the model by rolling their scroll wheel up and down, and can orbit the model by clicking and dragging their left mouse button.

  • Proliferation Pathways to a North Korean Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

    Dec. 20, 2013

    Jason Hernandez explores three pathways to an ICBM that North Korea may pursue from its current technology and capabilities base, and the effects of each pathway on the international community.

Country Profile

Flag of United States

United States

This article provides an overview of the United States’ historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →