Drug Probe Leads to Cheating Scandal at Air Force Nuclear Missile Base

Mechanical equipment is inspected at Malmstrom AFB in Montana

John Turner/USAF

AA Font size + Print

Mechanical equipment is inspected at Malmstrom AFB in Montana

The Air Force is investigating 34 officers in a massive cheating scandal at a nuclear missile base in Montana. By Jordain Carney

Thirty-four officers at an Air Force nuclear missile base in Montana are being tied to an ongoing cheating investigation, Air Force officials said Wednesday.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations — while looking into an ongoing illegal drug probe — tied 16 officers to allegedly cheating on a monthly officer proficiency test, after answers were shared via text message, said Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff.

Welsh added that 17 others stepped forward saying they were aware of the sharing, but it is unclear at this point in the investigation if they also cheated on the exam.

The 34 officers involved have been decertified and had their security clearance revoked while the investigation is ongoing.

The scandals is the latest in an increasingly battered nuclear missile force. News of alleged illegal drug use broke last week around the same time that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited one of the three intercontinental ballistic missile bases. Welsh said, referring to the cheating scandal, that he doesn’t know “of any incident” that decertified so many officers at once.

(Read Defense One’s coverage of the nuclear force here)

This is absolutely unacceptable behavior, and it is completely contradictory to our core values,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, noting that she found out about the alleged cheating over the weekend. “…This was a failure of some of our airmen; this was not a failure of a nuclear mission.”

Welsh said the entire nuclear force at the Montana base, totalling approximately 190 crew members, is currently being retested and the retesting will be finished by Thursday night.

The monthly exam tests “standard operations duties,” Welsh said, adding that they believe the cheating took place around August or September. Air Force officials said the investigation does not currently indicate cheating has spread to the other two ICBM bases. 

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from DefenseOne.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • GBC Issue Brief: Supply Chain Insecurity

    Federal organizations rely on state-of-the-art IT tools and systems to deliver services efficiently and effectively, and it takes a vast ecosystem of organizations, individuals, information, and resources to successfully deliver these products. This issue brief discusses the current threats to the vulnerable supply chain - and how agencies can prevent these threats to produce a more secure IT supply chain process.

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Information Operations: Retaking the High Ground

    Today's threats are fluent in rapidly evolving areas of the Internet, especially social media. Learn how military organizations can secure an advantage in this developing arena.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.