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Air Force Fires 9 Officers Accused in Cheating Scandal
Washington — The Air Force said Thursday that it had fired nine officers and accepted the resignation of the commander at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana as it continued to deal with a widespread cheating scandal among the men and women entrusted with the launching of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The commander, Col. Robert Stanley, who was directly responsible for the 100 or so officers implicated in the cheating scandal at Malmstrom, resigned Thursday, the Air Force said. The long-running case has led to the largest number of dismissals in the history of the ICBM force, which controls 450 nuclear-tipped Minuteman missiles at three bases, in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.
The nine firings at Malmstrom represented just about the entire chain of command at the base. The officers were not fired for cheating, Air Force officials said, but because nearly half of the missile launch crew's members either were cheating on monthly proficiency tests or knew about the cheating.
The officers "failed to provide adequate oversight of their crew force," the secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, said at a news conference.
Separately, the Air Force said it had fired Col. Donald Holloway, the commander of a missile wing at Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, over the "loss of confidence in his ability to lead." Holloway's firing, the Air Force said, "has nothing to do with the recent commander-directed investigation into the testing compromise at Malmstrom."
The cheating came to light during an inquiry into illegal drug possession, with investigators discovering that test answers were being sent by text message to missile launch officers' cellphones. Air Force officials said that the cheating scandal started with four launch officers who came to the attention of investigators during the drug inquiry.
Malmstrom, near Great Falls, Mont., is one of three bases that oversee the country's arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Lt. Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, said Thursday that Defense Department officials did not believe the cheating at Malmstrom extended to other nuclear launch sites. He said officials questioned officers at Warren Air Force Base and Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, but found nothing that warranted further investigation.
Wilson said the officers who were fired, while losing their command, would be reassigned.