You Are Not Being Defended


The Air Force says 34 nuclear missile launch officers have been implicated in a cheating scandal and have been stripped of their certification in what is believed to be the largest such breach of integrity in the nuclear force. 

Some of the officers apparently texted to each other the answers to a monthly test on their knowledge of how to operate the missiles. Others may have known about it but did not report it. 

The cheating was discovered during a drug investigation that involves 11 Air Force officers across six bases in the U.S. and England.

It is time to clean house and reorganize this entire command, beginning with the senior leadership of the Air Force. How many of these officers came from the Academy? All, some or none? Whatever created the culture of entitlement that allowed these officers to think that they could do drugs and maintain their positions needs to be fixed. Random drug testing doesn't work when you give people enough notice of a mandatory "whizz quiz."

So, you have two issues--criminal behavior related to drugs and academic dishonesty. Remember when the Harvard cheating scandal hit? This was one of the takeaways:

The right response to cheating involves not just adjudicating the individual cases but also exploring and addressing the structural determinants and risk factors for academic dishonesty. For guidance, academic institutions can look within their own community. Many scholars are already at the vanguard of understanding how decent people fall prey to the pressures of groupthink and poor decisionmaking. For example, Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University, describes some of the science behind the contagion of cheating norms in his recent book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty. We need to learn more about the learning environments that either promote or inhibit academic integrity.

The Navy had a similar problem with cheating when it came to the nuclear program. I don't know how they fixed it but all of these issues require some sort of comprehensive fix. Whether that involves raising the standards, increasing the educational efforts to instruct officers, or simply weeding out bad candidates is contingent on how serious they're going to get when it comes to cleaning up this problem. Of course, working a missile site is radically different than trying to complete a college course.

They're trying to find ways to teach Air Force officers etiquette; ethics and professionalism are far more important.

Thirty years ago, these officers would have been sent to Leavenworth for life; shooting them would have been widely discussed as a viable option. My, how times have changed. This is barely a national news story. Barely.

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