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Nuclear Commander: Less-Than-Perfect Test Scores Will Do

The Air Force will move away from implicitly requiring perfect test scores from its nuclear missile-launch officers, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports.

The service formally requires a score of 90 percent for its missileers to pass routine tests for certification to serve in underground launch-control centers for the U.S. arsenal of 450 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles. However, there has often been a tacit understanding in the service's nuclear-missile branch that officers had to score 100 percent on the tests or risk seeing their career prospects diminished.

Air Force leaders have blamed that so-called "culture of perfection" for motivating dozens of young launch-control officers to cheat on the exams -- or look the other way when their colleagues cheated. An official investigation into test-taking misconduct at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., resulted in the service last month firing a number of mid-level officers at the base for failing to sufficiently supervise the officers beneath them.

The commander of the 20th Air Force, which oversees all Minuteman 3 missiles, told the Tribune Eagle that he is working to shift how "perfect" is construed. Still, he said the public should continue to expect that nuclear missiles will be handled without error.

"You don't have to be perfect in testing, and you don't have to be perfect in training," Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein said. "But you do have to be perfect when you are doing the mission."

The two-star general said 350 recommendations on how to improve the ICBM mission have been received as part of an expansive study that surveyed Air Force nuclear-missile officers and work crews. Weinstein said he and other service brass accept nearly all of the recommendations.

The test-cheating revelations "may be a tough pill to swallow, but I really believe that with everything that has happened, good is going to come out of this and make us stronger," he said.

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