WASHINGTON — The cheating scandal inside the Air Force's nuclear missile corps is expanding, with the number of service members implicated by investigators now roughly double the 34 revealed this month, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, citing unnamed officials.
It wasn't clear whether the additional 30-plus airmen suspected of being involved in cheating on proficiency tests are alleged to have participated in the cheating directly or were involved indirectly. About 14 percent of the Air Force cadre of nuclear missile launch control officers has now been removed temporarily from active missile duty.
The officials who disclosed the higher number of cheating suspects spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information by name while the investigation is ongoing.
On Jan. 15, the Air Force announced that while it was investigating possible criminal drug use by some airmen, it discovered that one missile officer at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., had shared test questions with 16 other officers. It said another 17 acknowledged knowing about this cheating but did not report it.
The 34 officers had their security clearances suspended and they were taken off missile launch duty.
Lt. Col. John Sheets, a spokesman for Air Force Global Strike Command, which manages the nuclear Air Force, said he could not comment on the number of additional officers implicated in the cheating investigation, but he said all are launch control officers at Malmstrom.
The tests in question are designed to ensure proficiency by launch officers in handling "emergency war orders."
Malmstrom is home to 150 nuclear-armed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles. This represents one-third of the ICBM force.
Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of the problems inside the ICBM force and said he would assemble a group of outside experts to look for solutions.