Nuclear Unit Commander to Step Down Amid Missileer Cheating Scandal

Air Force Col. Robert Stanley II. Air Force Col. Robert Stanley II. U.S. Air Force

Air Force Col. Robert Stanley, who commands a scandal-rocked nuclear-missile wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., is stepping down on Thursday, Global Security Newswire has learned.

The news comes just as his service prepares to announce the results of an Air Force Global Strike Command investigation into allegations that nearly 100 nuclear-missile launch officers at the Montana base -- and possibly elsewhere, as well -- engaged in a cheating ring on job-performance exams. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James was expected to be joined by the commander of the Louisiana-based nuclear headquarters -- which oversees nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile and bomber aircraft units -- at an afternoon press briefing.

In an email obtained by GSN, Stanley implored his 341st Missile Wing -- which controls one-third of the nation's 450 Minuteman 3 land-based, nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles -- to hold themselves to higher ethical standards. The colonel has maintained that he was unaware of the test-cheating until a military investigator discovered it. He laments in Thursday's message that not a single airman had called to leadership attention illicit proficiency-exam practices that had apparently become commonplace. 

"The lesson? Had just one solitary airman spoken up for integrity, our leadership team would have been able to take action immediately," Stanley wrote. "Tragically, peer pressure and the fear of being an outcast prevailed."

He called the incident "a wake-up call for everyone who has lost their sense of right and wrong, for those who have become cynical, and for those indoctrinated by modern society to acquiesce when faced with bad behavior."

Stanley said he had volunteered his immediate resignation from the wing commander post and his retirement from the military, both of which were accepted.

"I represent this wing to the world, and we let the American people down on my watch," the colonel wrote.

He attributed the errors specifically, though, to "the extraordinarily selfish actions of officers entrusted with the most powerful weapon system ever devised by man.

"As you are now learning," he added, "the ramifications are dire. Many lives will be permanently changed as a result."

Some current and former Air Force officials have suggested that an expectation of 100 percent scores on monthly readiness tests may have contributed to pressure some personnel felt to share answers.

The scandal also included separate revelations about drug possession among a number of Air Force Global Strike Command personnel.

Meanwhile, a two-star Air Force general who the led service's nuclear-missiles operations was fired recently after he allegedly drank heavily and acted inappropriately during an official visit to Russia last July.

The Air Force investigation reportedly contains some 400 findings, and could result in as many as two senior leaders being disciplined, Breaking Defense reported on Thursday. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also has commissioned an independent assessment of ethics across the entire nuclear branch following the various revelations of wrongdoing.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.