WASHINGTON — Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says 34 missile launch officers have been implicated in a cheating scandal and three others have been implicated in a drug probe, the latest missteps by those who maintain and operate the nation’s 450 nuclear missiles.
In all, the drug scandal encompasses 11 Air Force officers across six bases. Of the three missile launch officers involved in the drug scandal, two are at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and one is at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
James said those involved in the cheating scandal have lost their certification and nearly 200 missile crew members will retake the test.
They said the cheating allegations revolve around routine tests the service members have to take to ensure their job proficiency. They said information about the possible cheating emerged from the ongoing probe into drug use at several bases.
The Pentagon said the Air Force’s top civilian, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, and its top uniformed officer, Gen. Mark Welsh, planned a news conference Wednesday to update the status of the investigation.
Last week the Pentagon disclosed the original drug probe of a total of 10 officers — nine lieutenants and one captain — at six bases. It provided few other details beyond saying the officers were suspected of possessing “recreational drugs.”
The matter is being probed by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
The original disclosure of a drug investigation said the officers alleged to be involved were at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.; Schriever Air Force Base, Colo.; Royal Air Force base Lakenheath in England; Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and two bases that operate intercontinental ballistic missiles — F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., and Malmstrom.
First word of the investigation came last Thursday moments before Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel appeared at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming to deliver a pep talk to members of the 90th Missile Wing, which operates 150 ICBMs. Hagel did not mention the drug probe but praised the missile force for its dedication and professionalism.