Dozens of nuclear launch officers across six US Air Force bases have been caught in a drug and cheating scandal, according to the Air Force Secretary.
Deborah Lee James said Wednesday that a drug probe has been widened to include cheating on regular proficiency tests that service members have to take monthly, the Associated Press reported.
The cheating was done by text messages through which officers exchanged knowledge of how to operate the missiles. The scandal is the largest breach of integrity in the nuclear force, James said.
“This is absolutely unacceptable behavior and it is completely contrary to our core values in the Air Force and as everybody here knows the Number One core value for us is integrity,” he told reporters.
The Pentagon announced the drug probe last week, saying that 10 officers, nine lieutenants and one captain — at six bases, were being investigated for possessing “recreational drugs,” but did not provide more details.
The matter is being probed by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
The original drug probe last Thursday disclosed that officers involved were at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.; Schriever Air Force Base, Colo.; Royal Air Force base Lakenheath in England; Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and two bases that operate intercontinental ballistic missiles – F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., and Malmstrom.
All missile crew members across the Air Force, about 600, will have to retake the test by the end of Thursday.
The Air Force’s nuclear arm has been under criticism by a series of security lapses and morale-related issues, leading one officer to complain of “rot” in the force.
This is the latest of the controversies about officers in charge of maintaining and operating America’s 450 nuclear missiles.
Last year, a missile unit at Malmstrom and another outfit based at Minot North Dakota failed in safety and security inspections. The latter disclosure resulted in the removal of 17 military personnel from their jobs.
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