March 28, 2014, WASHINGTON (AFNS) – In a press briefing at the Pentagon March 27, Air Force officials announced the findings from the Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., test compromise investigations, to include accountability actions and a way forward for the ICBM force.
In January, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Air Force Global Strike Command commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson announced a cheating incident involving 92 crew members at Malmstrom AFB. Wilson then launched a commander directed investigation and force improvement program to get to the bottom of the situation and to recommend needed improvements. Additionally, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered the service to provide him a comprehensive plan to address the morale and ethics issues within 60 days.
James led with what the CDI initially confirmed, “we do have systemic issues in our missile community,” highlighting that the CDI and FIP have a number of recommendations to address not only the climate within the nuclear community, but also to ensure Airmen recognize importance of the nuclear mission to national security.
She also addressed the topic of most interest — accountability — with 79 officers and 10 leaders receiving punishment in some form.
“Nine officers in leadership positions at Malmstrom (AFB) were recommended for removal,” James said. “One officer submitted his resignation and will retire. None of these leaders were directly involved in a test compromise, but the commander directed investigation indicated that they failed to provide adequate oversight of their crew force.”
“This indeed was a major failure in integrity,” she said, speaking of the group of missile officers who had some type of involvement in the test compromise.
“Our Air Force core values, which are ‘Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do’, — have to guide us in everything we do — on and off duty; at home, in the office and on the battlefield,” James said. “Integrity means taking action when you see something in your environment that’s not right — in your unit, among your peers, (with) your subordinates and your superiors.”
To reemphasize the importance of core values and provide resources to commanders and senior non-commissioned officers, key plan components include a stand-down Wingman Day, evaluation of current curriculum at formal education and training venues and a launch of a core values resource center on the Air Force Portal, James reported.
Wilson said leaders launched a FIP that provides recommendations in four general areas: reforming organizational culture, empowering crew commanders, improving the quality and purpose of training; and reforming testing and evaluation.
“We are using this test compromise as an opportunity to make significant and important improvements across the enterprise,” Wilson said. “The Force Improvement Program’s purpose is to create an aggressive, action-oriented, field-influenced program with the goal of making substantial and lasting changes to the ICBM mission.”
The FIP, Wilson explained, included a diverse 69-person working group comprised of Airmen from operations, maintenance, security forces, mission support and helicopter career fields and even Navy submariners and global strike bomber crews.
The program launched in February on the heels of the CDI, led by Lt. Gen. Mike Holmes, Air Education and Training Command vice commander.
“Based on the CDI, we can say that, across the 20th Air Force, leadership’s focus on perfection led commanders to micromanage their people,” Wilson noted. “They sought to ensure the zero-defect standard was met by personally monitoring and directing daily operations, imposing unrelenting testing and inspections — with the goal of eliminating all human error.”
To begin to change the culture, we will place greater emphasis on 1) how we train and 2) field evaluations that better assess crew performance in the operational environment, Wilson reported. “This will allow us to deemphasize the significance of scoring 100 percent on classroom tests while ensuring our crew force remains ready to perform the mission.”
James reported in fiscal 2014 the Air Force earmarked $19 million for the FIP including launch control center refurbishment and infrastructure repairs. The 20th Air Force also identified an additional $3 million for quality-of-life requirements.
Similarly, the fiscal 2015 budget request, James reported, includes $455 million to the sustain the Air Force’s Minuteman squadrons, intercontinental ballistic missile helicopter support and critical communications, with another $154 million for readiness, training and launch control improvements.
“As we execute our funding in 2014 we’re going to seek to rearrange as much as possible to fund these important programs — in other words we’re not going to wait; we’re going to move forward,” she said.
Still, James said the Air Force nuclear deterrence mission is not only critical to national security, but remains strong.
“Overall, I continue to have great confidence in this mission and the way it is being performed,” James said. “For over 50 years our nuclear professionals have faithfully stood watch over America. This issues we have before us is tough (and) while we have made progress in recent years, there is more work to be done.”