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NUCLEAR SCANDAL: Officers ‘Cheated On Exam’

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(CNN) — The U.S. Air Force’s nuclear command has been rocked by a cheating scandal involving nearly three dozen officers.

Cheating on a proficiency exam involving launch officers at the Global Strike Command at Malmstrom Air Force base in Montana was carried out by text and appears to be the largest incident of its kind, military officials said.

“This is absolutely unacceptable behavior and it is completely contrary to our core values in the Air Force and as everybody here knows the Number One core value for us is integrity,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters.

Officials said the nuclear arsenal is secure.

The case involving 34 officers stemmed from a drug possession investigation at multiple air bases in the United States and overseas. Only one of those caught up in the cheating episode has been linked to the other probe, officials said.

Sixteen officers were ultimately found to have actually cheated on the monthly proficiency exam while the rest knew the answers had been shared with others and did not report the violation.

All are no longer certified to conduct nuclear operations. Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh indicated there are enough officers on hand to securely maintain the nuclear missiles in Montana.

He also echoed concern expressed by James about the integrity of the officers overseeing those caught up in the widespread cheating.

“We’re going to look into this with every means at our disposal,” he said.

There are approximately 190 officers overseeing readiness of nuclear weapons systems, meaning the scandal has touched nearly 20 percent of that force.

The Air Force said all officers in the command will be re-tested by the end of Thursday.

This is the latest incident to rock the Air Force nuclear command.

Last year, a missile unit at Malmstrom failed a safety and security inspection.

They operate about a third of the 450 Minuteman III nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles in the U.S. force, according to the Air Force statement.

Also last year, another outfit based at Minot North Dakota did poorly in an inspection, resulting in the removal of 17 military personnel from their jobs.

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