The U.S. Air Force announced Wednesday that 34 intercontinental ballistic missile officers have been caught cheating on a certification test in which one officer was sending out the answers via text message.
Air Force investigators discovered the cheating ring while investigating a separating drug scandal that has implicated 11 individuals across six bases in the Air Force.
The 34 officers in the cheating scandal are all assigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., and home to the 341st Missile Wing — one of three ICBM missile bases in the Air Force.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh said that Air Force nuclear weapons were never compromised as part of the cheating scandal, but an investigation remains ongoing. The Air Force leadership said they were relatively confident the cheating ring did not extend beyond the 34 officers.
The certification test was a monthly launch officer proficiency test. One missile officer texted answers to the monthly test to 16 other officers. Air Force investigators found out that an additional 17 missile officers knew about the cheating and didn’t take part, but failed to report it.
Missile officers across the Air Force — to include the officers at the two missile bases other than Malmstrom — will retake the certification tests that the officers were caught cheating on.
James, who just recently took over as the Air Force’s top civilian, said she will visit the Air Force’s missile bases next week to issue the message that this sort of behavior is “unacceptable.”
Welsh and James repeatedly said the actions of a few officers were not representative of the Air Force’s nuclear enterprise at large. However, this is just the recent scandal to be uncovered in recent months within the Air Force nuclear community.
In October, the 20th Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, was fired for conduct unbecoming an officer after he was excessively drunk and socializing with “suspect” women, according to an IG report. In November, the Associated Press reported on heightened levels of misconduct like spousal abuse within the missile community. Welsh also said the 341st Missile Wing failed a key nuclear inspection in August before passing it two months later.
Air Force Global Strike Command oversees the Air Force’s nuclear community. It was stood up in 2009 after far reaching problems were discovered in the Air Force’s nuclear community highlighted when six nuclear warheads were mistakenly flown across the country and nuclear components were incorrectly shipped to Taiwan.