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General says missile scandal being corrected
Jan 20, 2014 - By Kelsey Bray, MCT News Service
CHEYENNE -- Steps are being taken to make sure Air Force nuclear launch officers can't cheat on proficiency tests in the future, their leader said Friday.
Speaking to about 70 people at a monthly chamber luncheon, Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, commander of the 20th Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command, said at no time was the public's safety affected by the actions of officers involved in the scandal.
"To say this is serious is an understatement, but it's something we're going to address," he said.
"As a commander, your responsibility is to make sure that you fix problems. It's also to make sure that you don't have systemic problems throughout the entire organization."
Some 34 launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana were caught with stolen answers to a monthly proficiency test or were aware of it and didn't report it.
Two of the officers are also under scrutiny in connection with illegal drug use, along with a third nuclear launch officer at F.E. Warren Air Force Base here.
To help fix the problems, Weinstein said they will be elevating who proctors the tests, and all the testing will be centrally controlled by the 20th Air Force.
"We're going to write all the tests," he said.
They're also going to be training members on leadership and responsibility.
"You have to give people the skills. You have train them, and then you give them responsibility," Weinstein said. "I think when you do that, people really shine,"
The bases will also be getting some additional oversight, as the U.S. Air Force chief of staff and secretary will be visiting them. Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James will visit F.E. Warren on Tuesday, according to a media advisory sent Friday.
The changes will help prevent something like this from happening in the future, Weinstein said. But he also emphasized that the nuclear missile operations were always safe," he said.
The 20th Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command oversees 450 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, 150 of which are controlled by the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren. Malmstrom controls 150, and the final 150 are controlled by Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. More than 9,600 people work in the missile program.
Despite the scandal, Weinstein said he has high hopes for the future.
"To me, the future is really bright," he said Friday during a Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee lunch.
Weinstein said also has high confidence in the members of the Air Force.
"Please realize that when you look at people who don't have integrity in our United States Air Force, please don't assume that everybody doesn't have integrity," he said.
"We have really good people doing the mission every day. That gets lost when this happens."
"I could not be happier to be here to represent everybody in 20th Air Force."