The Air Force crews responsible for overseeing the nation’s nuclear stockpiles—members of which are known as missileers—were somehow worse at their jobs than was previously reported, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.
The documents show that the airmen responsible for missile operations at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota would have failed their inspection if they hadn’t juked the stats. Their scores were combined with higher evaluations applied to support staff like cooks and facility managers. That bumped them all the way up to a not-at-all-worrying “marginal” rating (which is basically a ‘D’).
The 91st Missile Wing also had a rocky history on their launch simulator inspections:
11 crews tested on a launch simulator for the inspection, three were rated Q3, or “unqualified,” which the Air Force defines as demonstrating “an unacceptable level of safety, performance or knowledge.” Five of the 11 earned a top rating and three got a second-tier rating.
The Minot crews performed much better in a September re-assessment. Eleven of 12 launch crews received top qualification ratings, although one was rated unqualified with “one critical and one major error.” In back-to-back inspections this January, the 91st as a whole was given outstanding marks.
Statistics for test scores at the base also dropped off sharply after the March inspection of the facility and personnel’s capabilities. In the two years before the inspection, 87 percent of test scores were perfect, but after the inspection only 46 percent scored perfectly. In addition, “errors on monthly written tests and errors on launch control simulators soared after the March inspection.”
Last January, it was revealed that 34 missileers at a base in Montana had been suspended following widespread cheating on monthly exams.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.