2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Udall: Stop cheating on nuclear missile crew tests

Published: January 15, 2014, 2:57 pm, by Tom Roeder

UdallBacksBennet-gpi-_RoedColorado’s U.S. Sen. Mark Udall issued a rapid response after the Air Force revealed Friday that a drug investigation had uncovered suspected cheating on nuclear missile crew qualification tests.

The Air Force unveiled the drug allegations last week and on Monday confirmed that a Schriever officer was among nine lieutenants and a captain being investigated for possessing “recreational” drugs.

On Wednesday, Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark Welsh held a news conference about the cheating scandal that could entangle three dozen missile launch officers.

“I am extremely disappointed by these allegations of cheating and improper handling of classified material by Air Force launch officers. There simply is no room in our Air Force, and certainly in our nuclear enterprise, for this type of misconduct,” Udall said. “Senior Air Force leaders must redouble their efforts to investigate these allegations and ensure the integrity of this critical mission. I have great respect for the airmen who stand watch over us around the clock, and we cannot let the unethical actions of a few soil the reputation of those who perform their mission with well-deserved pride and true professionalism.”

Udall, a Democrat, heads the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee. The committee has been scrutinizing America’s fleet of 450 Minuteman II missiles.

There has been much speculation that the aging missiles in underground silos could be an easy target for defense cuts if Congress and the Navy agree to a new generation of nuclear missile subs.

Udall’s Wednesday statement hit inboxes minutes before a similar missive from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

“Having just returned from visiting with ICBM officers in Wyoming, Secretary Hagel understands the importance of their mission and the necessity that it be executed according to the highest standards of professionalism,” the Pentagon said. “He will be following the issue closely.”