by Michael Yoakum
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States – Nine Air Force commanders were fired Thursday after being implicated in scandal involving cheating on nuclear proficiency tests.  Air Force leadership additionally will discipline dozens of junior officers posted at Malmstrom Air Force Base, a nuclear missile base in Montana.

Col. Robert Stanley, who was led Malmstrom’s 341st Missile Wing, reportedly resigned in light of the cheating scandal. (photo courtesy of BBC News)

Though not directly involved in the cheating scandal, the nine commanders held leadership positions at Malmstrom.  Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the nine “failed to provide adequate oversight of their crew force.”  Those firings were in addition to Col. Stanley, who resigned from his post Thursday.

“Leadership’s focus on perfection led commanders to micromanage their people,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command.  Wilson added “Leaders lost sight of the fact that execution in the field is more important than what happens in the classroom.”

Officers at Malmstrom were under pressure to achieve 100% proficiency on regular tests when only 90% was required, perhaps precipitating the cheating scandal.

James indicated Thursday that 100 junior officers were implicated in the cheating scandal, either for participating or overlooking the cheating. Nine of those officers were cleared of charges while the remainder received punishments ranging from letters of counseling to courts-martial. 30-40 of those officers are expected to be retrained and returned to duty.

Disciplinary measures are one of a variety of changes expected to affect the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile programs, according to both James and Wilson.  Other issues to be addressed are morale and the micromanagement of lower-level officers.  James, while optimistic about the changes, cautioned that progress will likely be slow.

“The issues that we have before us today are tough, and they didn’t come overnight . . . While we have progress in certain areas in recent years, there is more work to be done,” James said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also expressed concern about the state of morale and discipline among nuclear officers.  Hagel instituted a review of nuclear forces to look into the impact of these issues.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Nine fired in US nuclear force cheating scandal – 27 March 2014

CNN – 9 Air Force commanders fired from jobs over nuclear missile test cheating – 27 March 2014

Fox News – Commanders fired in nuclear missile exam cheating scandal – 27 March 2014

Russia Today – Nine nuclear base commanders fired from US Air Force over cheating scandal 27 March 2014

The Washington Post – Nuke test cheating linked to flawed leadership – 27 March 2014

Author: Michael Yoakum