Air Force Officials disclosed Wednesday that the branch had ended the security clearances for 34 officers and that they are re-testing the entire force overseeing America’s nuclear-armed missiles when it was discovered that the employees were cheating on their exams.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters in a statement late Wednesday that “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.”
Hagel has asked Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James “to update him regularly on these investigations, and to make the health of the ICBM force a top priority,” Kirby added.
James briefed Secretary Hagel on allegations that several dozen ICBM officers “cheated on their proficiency tests,” he said.
According to the Pentagon this is the largest case of cheating in the United States nuclear missile force. The cheating took place at Malmstrom Air Force Base, in Montana. It is one of three bases that contain the 420 nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles in the U.S.
The cheating was uncovered while the Air Force was conducting a drug investigation of three Air Force officers. The incident, which was first reported last week, involved six bases in the United States and England, according to the Associated Press. F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., and Minot Air Force Base, N.D. were the three nuclear bases under investigation in the United States.
A former senior Pentagon Official that spoke with TheBlaze on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak on the issue said “cheating in this capacity is extremely dangerous to the security of our facilities and to those living in proximity of the facility. Unfortunately, this may not be the only case of cheating — we’ll have to wait and see.”
Air Force chief of staff General Mark Welsh told reporters that the incident involved cheating on a monthly missile launch officer proficiency exam last year.
Welsh said investigation’s into the incident are ongoing.
“There was cheating that took place with respect to this particular test,” said James, at a news conference Wednesday. “Some officers did it. Others apparently knew about it, and it appears that they did nothing, or at least not enough, to stop it or to report it.”
Hagel had recently returned from “visiting with ICBM officers in Wyoming” and “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,” Kirby said.