Thirty-four Air Force officers responsible for launching nuclear missiles have been suspended for cheating, or abetting cheating, on routine proficiency exams, Fox News reported
The offenses, which occurred last summer, were uncovered as part of routine testing for use of "recreational drugs" that focused on 11 Air Force officers.
The Air Force's nuclear arm has been plagued by scandals involving security breaches and morale-related troubles, according to Fox.
"This is not about the compromise of nuclear weapons," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters. "It's about the compromise of the integrity of some of our airmen. . . . Our actions as we move forward will be about making sure that every member of our Air Force understands that we will not accept or allow that type of behavior."
According to the Air Force
, the U.S. land-based ballistic missile force (ICBMs) consists of 600 missile crew members who oversee the 450 Minuteman III's located at the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.; the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Mont.; and the 91st Missile at Minot AFB, N.D.
The New York Times
reported that defense experts say that the end of the Cold War and the elevation of counterterrorism in the American military has led to low morale among the men and women, known as "missileers," who live and work within a hair trigger of the country’s 450 nuclear missiles.
The missileers have increasingly come to view their mission as a backwater, with little chance of advancement to the top ranks of the Air Force."
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told a Pentagon news conference Wednesday
that while the revelations were serious she was confident in the overall system and pledged "not to drop the ball" in addressing whatever fixes needed to be made.
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