Pentagon: 'Several Dozen' ICBM Officers Believed to Have Cheated on Proficiency Exams

The Defense Department confirmed today that it's investigating allegations that "several dozen" ICBM officers, launch officers responsible for operating the intercontinental ballistic missile system, cheated on their proficiency exams.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James briefed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on the case. James gave a press conference today in which she said that 3 of the 10 who were implicated in an Air Force drug possession investigation were from the Air Force Global Strike Command, home of the ICBM forces.

"Secretary Hagel was deeply troubled to learn of these allegations, and he strongly supports the aggressive steps the Air Force is taking in response to them. He asked Secretary James to update him regularly on these investigations, and to make the health of the ICBM force a top priority," Kirby said.

"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. He will be following the issue closely."

This follows a May incident in which 17 ICBM officers were quietly stripped of their launch powers in what internal emails described as a culture of indifference and sloppy security standards.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said he expects the missile force commanders to "ensure there is no recurrence.”

“The nuclear mission, and particularly the ICBM mission, is a centerpiece of U.S. National security. Day in and day out, missileers, security forces, and maintenance personnel work a tough, demanding duty," McKeon said. "They expect no praise for their professionalism. I’m saddened that a few serious violations have sullied the name of an otherwise honorable group of professionals. And the ones whose integrity is intact have my thanks and gratitude."