Staff Sgt. Isaiah Miller operates a lift in a missile tube used for training at Malmstrom Air Force Base in 2010. (Great Falls Tribune file photo)
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A team of 65 people led by Vice Adm. Michael Connor, the Navy's commander of submarine forces, will spend the coming weeks interviewing the most junior airmen to senior leaders to try to find the cause of 'systemic' problems within the nuclear force. (Navy)
A team of 65 people will spend the coming weeks interviewing the most junior airmen to senior leaders to try to find the cause of “systemic” problems within the nuclear force.
The group of Air Force and Navy members, civilian employees and industry representatives started its “Force Improvement Program” on Feb. 12 at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and was to continue to other nuclear missile bases, including Malmstrom Air Force Base, Wyo., and F.E. Warren, Mont. The team also will stop at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., as part of a grassroots effort to identify potential causes of morale problems and a cheating scandal that came to light amid an investigation into alleged drug use by two officers.
The team will talk to junior officers and enlisted airmen involved in the nuclear force about their work, leadership and family, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. The group will produce a report by the end of February.
Wilson, who took command of Global Strike in October, said the idea for the study started with a conversation he had with Vice Adm. Michael Connor, the Navy’s commander of submarine forces, about addressing morale issues in the Navy’s nuclear submarine force. Connor “gave me this basic idea” of the review, Wilson said. Much of the group now working on the Air Force review was involved with studies of the Naval submarine force.
“They are going to ask questions that we wouldn’t ask of ourselves,” Wilson said Wednesday during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told the group at the CSIS event that she would travel to the Air Force Academy to ask questions about ethics and leadership, though Wilson said the officers implicated in the cheating scandal came through all commissioning sources. James visited the missile bases last month, days after announcing Jan. 15 that dozens of missile officers assigned to the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom either cheated or knew about cheating on monthly proficiency exams. Now, 92 officers at Malmstrom have been connected to the investigation.
“There are systemic problems,” James said Feb. 12. at the CSIS event.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has also said he is “deeply troubled” by the problems in the nuclear force and ordered a 60-day review expected to be completed in March.
A third study by Lt. Gen. Mike Holmes, vice commander of Air Education and Training Command, is due at the end of February. Wilson asked Holmes to review how the Air Force trains and tests its missileers.