Monday, March 31, 2014

Air Force Test Cheating at Nuclear Missile Base

Discovery of test questions and answers being text messaged caused the firing of nine mid-level officers and lesser punishment for junior officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana ("U.S. Air Force Fires Nine Officers Following Nuclear Test Cheating Probe," Washington Post, March 27, 2014).

The individuals who were fired did not take part in the cheating, but fostered a climate where it was considered acceptable according to the Air Force. The cheating scandal erupted as a result of an "unreasonable drive for perfection rather than an ill-trained force," according to a professor at the Air Force Research Institute who documented the problem. The unethical behavior seemed to be a commonplace occurrence (based on the Air Force reporting) on competency exams among personnel who "saw perfect scores as their only chance for promotion and career advancement."

Discussion Questions:
  1. Apparently, cheating of this type was not found at other Air Force bases, but does this scandal make you wonder about the possibility of unethical behavior being condoned elsewhere in the Air Force?
  2. In the article, there is a comment from the Air Force that states, "the cheating should not call into question the readiness of the team at Malmstrom, which oversees intercontinental ballistic missiles." Does this statement make you wonder why would Air Force personnel be interested in cheating if they felt confident about their job skills?
  3. If you were working with someone you heard was cheating on these types of tests, would you feel confident that you could trust them to perform their job well?