– 11 air force officers are suspected of illegal drug use, and 34 officers have been implicated in cheating
– Missile-launch officers work in part in underground bunkers on bases equipped with nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. Affected ICBM sites included bases in Minot, North Dakota, and Great Falls, Montana
Investigation that began with accusations of illegal drug use expands into allegations of cheating on proficiency exams
Tom McCarthy in New York
theguardian.com, Wednesday 15 January 2014 17.26 EST
A US air force investigation into illegal drug use by officers charged with overseeing and launching nuclear missiles expanded on Wednesday when the military announced the suspension of dozens of additional officers for cheating on proficiency exams.
The cheating scandal came to light during the investigation of the drug scandal, the air force said. The drug probe was first announced last Thursday.
In all, 11 air force officers are suspected of illegal drug use, and 34 officers have been implicated in cheating, according to the military.
“This is not about the compromise of nuclear weapons,” air force chief of staff Mark Welsh said in a statement broadcast on the Pentagon Channel. “It’s about the compromise of the integrity of some of our airmen … Our actions as we move forward will be about making sure that every member of our air force understands that we will not accept or allow that type of behavior.”
Missile-launch officers work in part in underground bunkers on bases equipped with nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. Affected ICBM sites included bases in Minot, North Dakota, and Great Falls, Montana.
Revelations of misconduct and incompetence in the nuclear missile program go back at least to 2007, when six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles were accidentally loaded onto a B-52 bomber in Minot, North Dakota, and flown to a base in Louisiana.
Last March, military inspectors gave officers at the ICBM base in Minot the equivalent of a “D” grade for launch mastery. A month later, 17 officers were stripped of their authority to launch the missiles.
In October, a senior air force officer in charge of 450 ICBMS, major general Michael Carey, was fired after accusations of drunken misconduct during a summer trip to Moscow. An internal investigation found that Carey drank heavily, cavorted with two foreign women and visited a nightclub called La Cantina, where “Maj Gen Carey had alcohol and kept trying to get the band to let him play with them.”