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Low Missileer Test Scores Muddy Cheating-Scandal Picture

Test results for Montana missile-launch officers during a period last summer when cheating is alleged to have occurred were some of the year's lowest.

More than 90 junior officers with responsibility for launching silo-based strategic missiles at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana have been sidelined during an ongoing Air Force investigation into an exam-cheating ring. The reported test misconduct involved the sharing of answers via cell text on a monthly test of knowledge about missile-targeting and -launch procedures, according to the Associated Press.

Test scores obtained by AP through an open-records request revealed that every one of the three squadrons at the Montana base received average or below-average test results in the August-to-September period when the cheating is said to have taken place.

The middling test results raise questions about whether the accused cheaters botched their answer-sharing scheme, or the exam queries were so hard that the alleged testing misconduct by some was not enough to yield above-average results for the entire Montana launch-officer corps, according to the news service. Perhaps no cheating actually took place at all during that period, the AP report wonders.

Senior Air Force leaders have characterized the reported cheating as a product of a culture of perfection within the service's nuclear-missile mission, which penalized officers who achieved results lower than 100 percent.

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