9 Air Force commanders fired over nuclear missile test cheating

Posted at 3:49 PM, Mar 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-27 16:39:33-04

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Nine Air Force commanders have been “recommended for removal” in the wake of a scandal involving cheating on tests related to the U.S. nuclear missile program, that military branch’s top official said Thursday.

The fired officers were in “leadership positions” at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said. Though not directly involved in cheating, they failed to provide adequate oversight of their crews, according to James.

A 10th commander submitted his resignation and will retire.

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The investigation and the resulting disciplinary action dates back to last August and September at Malmstrom. The Pentagon has said officers used texts to cheat on a monthly proficiency exam for intercontinental missile launch officers from the Global Strike Command.

James said Thursday that a total of 100 lower-level officers were implicated in the scandal — having either been accused directly of cheating or having looked the other way. Nine of those were cleared and will be allowed to return to duty.

About 190 officers oversee the readiness of nuclear weapons systems in Montana, meaning the episode has tainted about half that force in some way.

In January, the Pentagon said 16 officers were found to have actually cheated on the test while the rest knew the answers had been shared with others and did not report any violation.

By Shirley Henry. CNN’s Barbara Starr contributed to this report.