Jan 15, 2014 3:21 PM by Claire Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
GREAT FALLS - Nearly three dozen Air Force officers in the nuclear force at Malmstrom Air Force Base were found to have cheated on a proficiency test, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
"This was a failure of integrity," said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.
Major Laver, a public affairs spokeswoman at Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, which oversees all ICBM bases in the Air Force, told KRTV that the cheating happened at Malmstrom Air Force Base and involved 34 nuclear officers.
The cheating was discovered as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged drug activity among officers.
The cheating reportedly happened between August and September 2013.
All ICBM officers have been ordered to undergo re-testing, affecting more than 600 officers at Malmstrom, at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, and F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. The re-testing commenced on Wednesday morning.
Malmstrom is responsible for the maintenance and operation of nuclear missiles; there are 15 missile alert facilities and 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) spread across 13,800-square miles in Montana.
We will update you as we learn more.
UPDATE - CNN, Tim McCaughan reporting: Cheating involving launch officers at the Global Strike Command at Malmstrom Air Force base in Montana was carried out by text message when one of those involved shared exam answers, officials said.
Sixteen were ultimately found to have actually cheated on the exam while the rest knew that the answers had been shared with others and did not report the violation. All have been "decertified."
"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," Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters.
The scandal appears to be the largest of its kind affecting the nuclear command, and stemmed from a drug investigation that involved one of those caught up in cheating.
The Pentagon issued the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:
Earlier today, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James briefed Secretary Hagel on allegations that several dozen ICBM officers cheated on their proficiency tests. Secretary Hagel was deeply troubled to learn of these allegations, and he strongly supports the aggressive steps the Air Force is taking in response to them. He asked Secretary James to update him regularly on these investigations, and to make the health of the ICBM force a top priority. Having just returned from visiting with ICBM officers in Wyoming, Secretary Hagel understands the importance of their mission and the necessity that it be executed according to the highest standards of professionalism. He will be following the issue closely.
Here is a video released by the Pentagon addressing the incident: