Defense Department Press Briefing on Air Force Update on Test Compromise Investigation, Jan. 30, 2014

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—January 30, 2014. Presenters: Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James; Air Force Global Strike Command Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson; and Brigadier General Les Kodlick, U.S. Air Force Director of Public Affairs.

BRIG. GEN. LES KODLICK:  Good morning, everybody.  I’m Brigadier General Les Kodlick, the director of public affairs for the Air Force.

We’re here to give you an update on the test — proficiency test compromise from Malmstrom Air Force Base.  The secretary also will share some observations from her travels throughout Global Strike Command.  And then we want to update you on some actions.

I want to remind everybody that the investigation is ongoing, so there will be some questions that we simply can’t answer yet.  And so we may come across that.  But in the effort to keep you apprised of the facts, current information and those kind of things, and be as transparent as possible, that’s why we’re here today.

The ROE is the same.  We’d ask you to identify yourself.  As I introduce General Wilson, a new player to the podium, so he doesn’t know everybody — name, affiliation.  We’ll do one question and a follow-up and go from there.

Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve seen Secretary James here at the podium before.  It’s a pleasure to welcome General Steve Wilson — Stephen — he goes by Seve, so it is Stephen with a “ph,” Wilson.  He is the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.

He has spent the majority of his career around the strategic deterrence mission.  Most recently, he came from U.S. Strategic Command where he was a joint force component commander.  He’s been a crewmember.  He’s stood alert.  He knows this mission inside and out.  He is the senior-most ICBM person in the United States Air Force and he is the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.

Madam Secretary?

SECRETARY DEBORAH LEE JAMES:  Thank you and good morning.  And if I may say, Seve, I don’t know that your mother could have done a better job on that intro than Les did.

When we met with all of you a few weeks ago, I told you that General Welsh and I were going to visit our ICBM bases, as well as the Global Strike Command headquarters.  Many of you at the time indicated that you’d like to get together and hear some impressions following the trip.  So, I’m here today to give you such an update, not only on my trip, but on the investigation at hand.

So, as you were previously briefed, a couple of weeks ago, OSI agents discovered answers for monthly proficiency tests on one crew member’s cell.  This test in question is a monthly validation of the ability to evaluate and execute the nuclear mission, and it covers concepts from recurring training.  We determined, again, two weeks ago, this was, that this individual had transmitted the answers to 16 additional crew members and then subsequently 17 more crew members were implicated by voluntary admission, and that’s what gave us the number of 34 officers who were implicated in sharing of test material.  Again, I am recapping for you what we said last — couple weeks ago.

Now, as the investigation has moved forward, we can now report there is a total of 92 crew members that have been identified as having some level of involvement.  That means either participating in the cheating or knowing something about it and not standing up and reporting it.  In an abundance of caution, as we follow these new leads, we have temporarily decertified these 92 crew members, and they are not any longer on alert at this time.

Lieutenant General Wilson, in just a few minutes, will discuss how it is that we’re managing this impact from an operational standpoint.  So we’ll get to that in just a bit.  But what I want to reassure you right now, today, is that I remain confident, and having gone there to our bases last week, even more confident in the safety, reliability, and effectiveness of the nuclear mission, and I remain this way for basically the same reasons as I reported to all of you two weeks ago.  The difference is, I went out and saw it for myself one week ago.

So, just to recap why I’m confident, there are multiple checks and balances in this system, and there are a variety of ways that we ensure its reliability and safety, not the least of which are the fact that we have DOD inspections and we have outside groups that come in and evaluate our nuclear teams to ensure that they know how to perform and how to do their jobs.

Moreover, as you’re aware, we retested everybody recently in the test in question, where this cheating had occurred, and that retest produced a 95.5 percent pass rate, which, again, demonstrates to me that our people know what their jobs are, they know how to perform.

And, again, we have the outside nuclear inspections that are going forward and producing equally encouraging positive results.

Now, with all of that said, this situation remains completely unacceptable.  I went on the road last week specifically because I wanted to see more, I wanted to see it for myself and learn more, directly, for myself.

So at each stop, and I did go to each of the nuclear missile bases and ended up at Barksdale, at the home of the Global Strike Command.  At each stop, I received the briefings.  Of course I did tours.

I think most importantly, I had sessions with Airmen.  I did large town hall meetings.  But I did small focus groups as well.

And these focus groups were just me and the Airmen.  I asked everyone else to leave the room.

I did this with enlisted Airmen.  I did it with officers.  And I did it at a variety of levels.

I talked to missileers.  I talked to the defenders.  I talked to maintenance people, support people, facilities personnel.  I tried to run the gamut and get a good cross-section.

And what I learned in these rather confidential settings to me was very, very helpful and very enlightening.

From all of those discussions and the tour of last week, I have come up with a list of what I call my seven observations, my seven focus areas, you might say.  And all of these areas will be addressed in some fashion over the next 60 days as we prepare our plan that we will be delivering and giving to the SecDef our set of recommendations on what to do with respect to the nuclear force in some of these issues that we have uncovered.

As you know, the secretary of defense has launched this 60-day review and so we will be of course participating in that fully along with the Navy and OSD.  Now, how precisely we’re going to put that plan together is also part of what General Wilson will cover shortly.

So let me know give you my — my seven observations.  My seven focus areas.  And the first one goes to what may be the heart of the question on many people’s minds.  And that is, is there some sort of a cultural issue that is going on in the force.

So having done the conversations that I’ve done, having looked at it very closely now and created my own impressions, I guess I believe now that we do have systemic problems within the force.

I heard repeatedly from teammates that the need for perfection has created a climate of undue stress and fear.  Fear about the future.  Fear about promotions.  Fear about what will happen to them in their careers.

I heard repeatedly that the system can be very punitive, come down very hard in the case of even small, minor issues that crop up, but no equally rewarding or incentivized for excellent behavior or good work.

I also heard that there is a level of micro-management out there, which needs to be turned into more of a climate of empowerment.  And I also heard that — that although we, as senior leaders, talk about the importance of the mission that the — the team in the field doesn’t always see that talk backed up by concrete action.

So, again, I’m sharing with you some of the themes that I picked up.  And my first observation is we do have systemic issues out there and we need to address this holistically not in just one piece part at a time.

My second observation is we have lost the distinction, over time, in this career area between what I call training and testing.  So, in the current environment, there is no room for error ever; that is the way people feel.

And yet, of course, those of us who’ve worked with the military we know that in a training environment, this is an environment of learning, this is an environment, where if you make mistakes, that’s okay.  Because the idea is to learn and do better.

Eventually you go on and you’re tested.  And you’re evaluated, and that’s when the rubber meets the road, can you or can you not do your job.

But in this environment, those two elements have come together in a way which I don’t think has turned out to be healthy.  So what I mean by that is although the standard on our test, a passing grade on these tests is 90 percent, the missileers are still driven to score 100 percent, all of the time.

And this is because their commanders are using these test scores to be a top differentiator, if not the sole differentiator on who gets promoted.

So I believe that a very terrible irony in this whole situation is that these missileers didn’t cheat to pass, they cheated because they felt driven to get 100 percent, getting 90 percent or 95 percent was considered a failure in their eyes.

So, again, I think this is not a healthy environment.  I think we need to re-look the way we do these tests and we — we very much need to move toward a whole-person concept when we are evaluating our Airmen, not just look at test scores.

My third observation comes back to the issue of accountability.  We talked about this two weeks ago.  And there is going to be accountability at all levels and the leaders will be assessed for this, as well as the people who were directly involved.  So, there will be accountability, I commit to you, on that score.

The fourth observation has to do with professional and leadership development.  And I think we’ve got some work to do here.

So there’s all kinds of questions now that I walked away with.  Are these Airmen in this career field getting the right kind of leadership training?  Are they being professionally mentored in the way that our young leaders are mentored elsewhere in the Air Force — by mid-level leaders, by senior NCOs?  What are their career paths in the Air Force?  Do they view this as a career field that has promise and where they can see a path to advancement and the top?

I’m not sure they view it that way today.  And I believe that we need to fix it so that it is viewed this way, more so in the future.

Fifth, that we need to reinvigorate a campaign on core values.  And I also believe that there are instances where our wingmen culture of taking care of one another can sometimes lead to people making bad choices.  So we have to reinvigorate what integrity means.  Integrity means you act with integrity as an individual, but it is also your duty to report something wrong if you see something wrong happening.

So we’re going to go back to basics, and we’re going to remind people what that means.  We’re going to do this across the Air Force.  And remind people that there are ways to report directly and there are ways to report anonymously, such as going to the I.G.  So we have to give some reminders at this point in time.

Sixth is what I call “nuclear incentives, accolades and recognition.”  So, again, we say this is an important mission.  Are we rewarding people appropriately and correctly?

And, by the way, part of the SecDef’s directed review has us sitting down across the table from the Navy, and we’re sharing best practices, we’re learning from each other.

And so, we’re taking a close look at the way the Navy handles this area.

So, this is such issues as should we or should we not consider incentive pay?  Should we or should we not award ribbons and medals for certain participation in this career field?

And, by the way, this pertains very much to the enlisted team, as well as to the officer team, because they’re working very hard every day as well, and are we giving them appropriate recognition and incentives?

And my last area of focus, last area of observation, if you will, has to do with other forms of investments.  So, once again, this is the top mission.  My question is, “Are we truly putting enough of our money where our mouth is?”

So there are facilities that are aging; there is equipment that isn’t fully maintained.  There are a variety of issues that I saw on my travels last week.  And so, should we at this point in time consider redirecting some of these resources to address some of these highest priority investments?

Again, these are the seven areas that we will be looking at over the next 60 days and addressing.

Okay, so let me being to wrap this.  We are going to get to the bottom of this.  This mission is going to get going forward senior level, very persistent oversight.  The oversight it deserves, and that’s from the SecDef on down.  And we’re gonna have a comprehensive, holistic action plan to address all of these observations.

And, as you probably noted, all seven of those observations, they come down to focus on people.  This is a lot about addressing people issues.  And getting this done right for our people will be crucial.

I want to reassure everybody again that this is the failure of integrity on the part of certain Airmen.  It was not a failure of the mission.  Not only am I confident in the mission, but just yesterday when we had our first meeting of the SecDef-directed review, Admiral Haney reaffirmed his confidence, the command of Strategic Command as well as the SecDef.  So we are unified on that — that front.

I also want to reinforce to all of you that the vast majority of the 25,000 people who are in our Global Strike Command are performing superbly.  They are working very hard, and they’re doing a great job with great pride each and every day.  And, I’m talking about people like First Lieutenant Camillo  Perrotta who is the convoy response force flight commander for the 791st Missile Security Squadron at Minot.  In short he’s one of the leaders on the defender side of the house.

During his wing’s nuclear surety inspection this last week, his team performed flawlessly and was able to successfully deny access to their convoy under a simulated attack in less than three minutes.

The defense threat reduction agency, the Air Force I.G. and the global strike commander I.G. all said that this was the best convoy denial exercise that they had ever seen.  And, by the way, this is an example of one of those outside inspections I told you where we look at, can people really perform the job.  And, this job was performed superbly.  An example of why I remain so confident.

So I want to say, well done Lieutenant Perrotta and please keep it up.  You’re doing great.

And remind everybody here today that there are many, many Lieutenant Perrotta’s out there in the force, and I was very honored to meet many of them last week.

I want to also thank and congratulate all of them and also remind them integrity, service, excellence core values, remember them always.

With that, General Wilson, over to you to discuss our mitigation action plan and how we’re gonna get our plan together for the next 60 days.

LT. GEN. STEPHEN WILSON:  Thank you, Madam Secretary, and good morning, it’s a pleasure to be here today.

I’m the commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, in charge of two legs of the Air Force triad, both the ICBMs and the bombers.  And in order to do that, my Airmen must be focused and dedicated to performing like the professionals that we expect them to be and our nation demands.

But the ongoing OSI investigation has shown — is we have experienced a failure of some of our officers and their integrity.  But again, not a failure of the nuclear enterprise.

I remain confident in our Airmen’s ability to accomplish the mission.  And let me tell you why.  First, they’re knowledgeable, capable and credible.  Let me tell you some specific actions that I did as a result of this finding.

Within 48 hours of this sensitive — we gave a no-notice, higher headquarters directed inspection to all 500 crew members.  Every crew member was tested.  Of the crew members who were tested, they scored a 95 percent average on their test course across the force.

This — then I directed a — a nuclear surety inspection of all three missileer within 30 days.  We just had the first inspection completed this last week at Minot Air Force Base.

Let me tell you a little bit about the results.  At Minot, the grade is either pass or fail.  They received a pass.  There were eight major graded areas.  Of the eight major graded areas, they got an Outstanding in two, and they got Excellent in six.

And again, this is done by a joint team, the Defense Reduction Agency, the Air Force I.G., as well as our command inspector general.

During that inspection, 320 crew members were given nuclear surety test.  Again, 95 percent was the average, and a 99 percent pass rate.

In one of those major areas, which I’ll call “nuclear control order procedures,” they received an “Outstanding.”  What that means is they went out and evaluated a crew member’s performance across the board.  In this one area, they evaluated 12 simulator evaluations of crewmembers.  All 12 members, zero defects.  The joint inspection team said this was the best procedures they’d seen to date.

Specifically at Malmstrom Air Force Base, the secretary mentioned that we have 92 members temporarily decertified.  Let me talk about the impact of that right now.

So, those that who have not been decertified are pulling additional alerts.  They typically pull eight alerts per month.  Now, they’re doing 10.  Staff crewmembers are also augmenting the crew force to pull those extra alerts.  We’ve taken crew members from the staff at 20th Air Force and they additionally are augmenting Malmstrom Air Force Base to be able to help them with the training and the evaluation and the procedural sims.

Much like any organization, we have contingency plans in place in case something were to go wrong, much like what happens if the crew force were to get the flu.  In that case, we have contingency plans for an event like this and we’re implementing those as we speak.  Other bases — we’ll look at options of other bases, potentially augmenting Malmstrom Air Force Base in the future.

And we’ll also look at as we get the new people out of Vandenberg Air Force Base, whether we divert some of those who would have gone to all the bases, into Malmstrom to ensure our crew force can continue the mission.  But I’ll tell you right up front, there’s been no operational impact and we do not see an operational impact in the mission at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Additional steps that we’re taking, as I directed a command-directed investigation led by Lieutenant General Mike Holmes from Air Education and Training Command.  He’s the vice commander there.

He’s put together a team, and I’ve asked him to specifically look at two areas, how we train and test and, two, the leadership environment.

He and his team are en route, as we speak, to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, where they’ll meet with 20th Air Force.  Then they’ll go to all the missile bases as well as Vandenberg Air Force Base.

They’ll identify the circumstances and the root causes that led to this incident.

He has a report due back to me within 30 days of his findings.  And from there, we’ll take action.

And let me say up front, we’re gonna take this wherever it goes.  And the access — the information he brings to me, we’re gonna take deliberate and swift action.

Now, much has been written about the morale in the ICBM force.  And, as the secretary just mentioned, when you get to the bottom of it, it’s about people.  It’s about getting good people, motivating them, making sure they’re trained, confident and proud, that both they’re professionally and personally fulfilled.

What we want to do, as the secretary has shown in her seven initial findings, is we want to take that and make some lasting change.

One of the areas that we’ve done that, and, as she mentioned, we’re partnering with our other service, the Navy, and sharing best practices.  And we’ve developed what we’re calling a force improvement plan.

The force improvement plan that we’ll put together, and it’s over the next few weeks, small working groups of junior officers and junior Airmen from operations, maintenance, security forces and mission support, and they’ll be charged with identifying challenges and proposing solutions.

I can’t stress this enough.  This is a grassroots level of effort, from the bottom up.  That’s where the solutions are gonna come from.

And the feedback’s gonna be provided directly to me.  That feedback, the actions things that I can act upon, I will.  Those that I can’t act upon, I’m gonna come to the secretary and the chief, if need be, higher, to implement the actions that the — that the people doing the job have identified is causing them to not be able to do their mission.

And the — this work is underway.  The initial results we think will be done at the end of February.  I’ll report back to the secretary and we’ll keep you advised of the progress of our force improvement program.

In closing, I’d like to say that our nation demands and deserves the highest standards and accountability from the force entrusted with the most powerful weapons in the world.  As the secretary mentioned, there is 25,000 people that make up the Airmen and civilians of Global Strike Command.  If you got to meet them you’d see that for the vast, vast majority of them they not only abide by, they live our Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all they do.

They make me really proud every single day.

Today, as we speak around the missile fields, it’s minus-31 degrees at Minot.  It’s minus-15 at Malmstrom; minus-31 at Minot — plus-15 at F.E.  Warren.  We have 1,000 Airmen right now, out in the field, doing operations, doing maintenance, doing security force operations.  They’ve been doing that for 50 years, 24-7, 365.

They’re some tremendous Airmen and they’re doing a vitally important mission for our nation of strategic deterrence.

Thank you very much.  At this time, I’d like to take any questions that anybody may have.

Lita — we’ll start with you.

Q:  Hi, Lita Baldor with the Associated Press.

You talked about this thing of systemic problems.  So for both of you, if you could, do you get the sense that this is confined to Malstrom, because if — if it’s systemic, have you seen any indications of any of this at any of the other locations?

Because, if it is a test of — sort of a cheating issue on answers to get promotions, not because they don’t know what’s going on, why wouldn’t this be at some of the other bases?

So is this confined to Malstrom, do you think?  Is it at the other bases?  And is then, possibly, leadership issues at Malmstrom?

MS. JAMES:  So I’ll — why don’t I start and then General Wilson, you — you jump in.

So the 92 people that we talked about are Malmstrom.  So there is that data point.  The data points that I gave you about my observations, I heard those themes at all of the locations, so that is why I’m saying I want to treat this in a holistic manner.

I — I feel that there are issues that we need to address across the force.  So my seven themes I heard throughout.

GEN. WILSON:  (inaudible) — the test is — was locally developed at Malmstrom, so that’s where we’re focusing right now.  However, I’ve charged Lieutenant General Mike Holmes and as we look at both the — how we test and how we train is one of his focus areas.

So he’ll start at — at F.E. Warren but he’ll go to all the bases and he’ll — that’s one of those key questions we’re asking him to look into.

Q:  But are you confident this isn’t happening at the other bases?

GEN. WILSON:  I’m — I’m confident that what we have right now is a Malmstrom incident.  And that we’re focused on Malmstrom because it was a locally developed test at Malmstrom.

It’s not the same test developed at other bases.  But one of the question you’re asking, and I think is to get after is how do we test to train, and that’s one of our focus areas that I’ve asked the command director of investigation to look into.


Q:  Dave Martin with CBS.

Is the investigation far enough along at Malmstrom so that you can say with any confidence that 92 out of — what? — about 190 (Wash ?) officers is the extent of it?  Or do you expect that number to go higher?

And I would like to ask a follow-up.

MS. JAMES:  So we understand, from the OSI, that they are nearing the completion of their piece of this investigation.  You heard this description of the command directed investigation which sort of is a different piece, but we believe the OSI is nearing the end.

Q:  Well, you’ve repeatedly said no compromise of security, safety or operational effectiveness.

So if you can have a widespread compromise of the test without any real-world impact, what’s the point of the test?

MS. JAMES:  Well, first of all, I want to point out that when  this first came to our attention, as you heard, you’ll recall from a couple weeks ago, one of the first things we did was we retested everybody, because we wanted to be absolutely certain that people sort of understood their jobs.  It’s critically important.

And with that retest, that gave us — that gave us confidence.

Of course, there is a real-world impact.  As you heard, the existing people, because the 92 have been pulled off temporarily, until we finish the investigation, there are people here who will be working harder, they’ll be pulling more alerts.

There are people who understand how to do the job who are now doing staff positions, but we’re gonna pull them off of the staff positions and put them  back doing the missile job for some period of time.

And then, there may be some leveling of some — some nuclear missileers from the other bases to come help out at Malmstrom.

So there are those impacts, where people will have to work harder.

But, in terms of the safety, security and reliability, we remain absolutely confident that the people know how to do their jobs and will perform that when needed.

Q:  So your leader focus groups, did – did the people who have to take this test tell you that they viewed it as just another meaningless requirement, layered on top of all the other tests and drills they have to go through?

MS. JAMES:  What I heard in the focus groups, and I did hear this at every base, was that these tests have taken on, in their eyes, such high importance, that they feel that anything less than 100 could well put their entire career in jeopardy.

They have — they have come to believe that these tests are make-it-or-break-it.  And this is where I came away with the impression that somehow we have lost this notion of there are training activities where people should and can and do make mistakes, but that’s how you learn.  But then there are other things like evaluations and some of the areas where, no kidding, you better know how to do your job.

We have done that and we feel certain that they do know how to do the job.  So, I think these tests — the law of unintended consequences perhaps has come into play here where in our drive to have a zero-defect nuclear force, these tests have become elevated to such a point where the environment has simply become unhealthy and where we’re not looking at the whole person concept and the totality of how they perform.

My opinion is we need to change that, and that’s a key thing that’s going to be looked at over the next 60 days.

GEN. WILSON:  So, David, on that same line, that’s the focus area of this command-directed investigation on how we train and how we test.  And I think you saw that from the results that — that all these officers did not need to cheat to pass a test.  We’ve demonstrated that 100 percent of them.  We tested 100 percent of the crew force and they averaged 95 percent.

Q:  Madam Secretary, David Cloud with the L.A. Times.

Did you ask in your meetings with Airmen at the other bases whether cheating was commonplace on these tests?  They’re tested three times a month on a variety of things.  The constant testing would seem to suggest that this activity at Malmstrom — it’s hard — it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t going on in some form at the other bases.  Did you ask that question?  And did you get an answer?

MS. JAMES:  I did ask that question, not exactly in that way.  But I asked them a lot about the culture, the pressures to succeed.  I asked a great deal about why isn’t 95 percent a good score.  And again, that’s how I — I really learned that the 100 percent score was what they were all striving for.

So I can’t say that I got a direct answer to that question, but I got enough of an impression everywhere I went to suggest to me that this — this is a problem, this is not healthy.  And we need to get back to — there is training, where you learn.  And then there is testing, but not to mix the two up the way I think it has become.

Q:  Amy McCullough, Air Force Magazine.

Can you say of the 92 at Malmstrom, how many actually cheated and how many were aware of it and just didn’t tell commanders about it?

GEN. WILSON:  I’ll start.

So, of the 92 we have the full spectrum.  We have some who were aware of it, all the way to the other end, to some who received the information and that deleted it off their — their cell phone.  So there’s — there’s a full spectrum, and we’re looking into it right now and to the specifics of each category of — but it’s a spectrum.

Q:  (off mic) — they are temporarily de-certified, so can you give me roughly, like, a percentage of how many of those might be able to gain their certification again and how that process will work?

GEN. WILSON:  Well, right now we’re focused on about 40, or the core group of that 92.  But, again we have a full spectrum of folks that we’re looking at in — what that 92 encompasses everybody who may have known about it, to everybody who may have received it — a test question in it and between.

Q:  (off mic) — understand what you said, the 40, you think, would be able to get their certification back eventually.  Is that what you were —

GEN. WILSON:  I’m saying we’re focusing in on about 40 people that we think are involved directly.  And the compromise.

(UNKNOWN):  They actually have cheated.

Q:  Okay —

GEN. WILSON:  May have, actually —

Q:  And one more quick follow-up.

You both have touched on the morale issue and the fact that they’re going to have to work harder and longer.  I would imagine that that’s just going to dampen morale even more.  And I know that you’re trying to address that in the long run, but what do you do about it right now?

GEN. WILSON:  Well, I would tell you what we’re doing about it is to make sure that they’re motivated, and as I told you, well trained, confident and proud of their mission.  Also, certainly it’s a people thing.  We’ve talked about it, but as someone else mentioned in the room here, this is also about leadership.

So, we’re going to focus on some leadership development at all levels, from the youngest Airmen to our squadron commanders and above.

Q:  Jim Miklaszewski, NBC.

I’m a little bit confused.  I don’t understand.  You say that this particular test was confined only to Malmstrom.

GEN. WILSON:  It’s a locally developed test.

Q:  A locally developed test.  So, apparently there are other tests that are conducted system-wide on a regular basis.  Is that true?

GEN. WILSON:  Jim, every month they are tested.  In the past, each wing built their own test to test a crew member’s proficiency.  We’ve changed the procedures on that now, so the tests will be developed by 20th Air Force and will also be proctored — proctored differently.  So that rather than each wing independently doing a test, now the tests will come from 20th Air Force.

Q:  Okay.  So what about this test made it particularly punitive that put so much pressure on the Airmen at Malmstrom?  What — what’s the difference between their test and the tests at F.E. Warren and Minot?

GEN. WILSON:  It’s the same monthly proficiency test to test their knowledge across their — their normal procedures.  It’s given every month in every wing.  There’s nothing different about this test.  So every wing takes it every month and, as the secretary said, the expect — 90 is the passing for this test, but the expectation among the crew force was they couldn’t miss a question.

Q:  Is that a leadership problem exclusive to Malmstrom?

GEN. WILSON:  As the secretary mentioned, I would say it’s systemic and that we need to change within the way we train and test within the community.

Q:  Madam Secretary, you talked about leadership accountability.  Are any of the wing commanders in jeopardy of losing their jobs?

And, also, can you give us an update on the drug investigation?  Have any more servicemembers been implicated in that?

MS. JAMES:  Do you want to talk about —


GEN. WILSON:  So, let me tell you, on a leadership — the Airmen at whatever level will be held accountable for their actions.

Part of what’s going on now is we’re doing this command-directed investigation.  So OSI will turn over their information to the team.  We’re gonna look again at how we train and test and at the leadership environment that existed.

At the end of that, we’ll make recommendations on any personnel actions.

Q:  So potentially they could be — I’m just trying to get an idea of how high up this is being looked at.

GEN. WILSON:  We’re looking at everything from squadron, group, wing and numbered air force levels.

Q:  And any other on the drug investigation?

MS. JAMES:  Yeah, the numbers, my latest update on that, the numbers which, last time we talked to you it was 11; it is now 13 that are under investigation for that.

Yes, sir?

Q:  You mentioned that you met with enlisted, the enlisted force and the officers.

I’m just curious, how did their concerns differ from — the enlisted forces concerns differ from the officers?

MS. JAMES:  I tended to meet with the separately.  So I would meet with officers in one focus group and then enlisted in a different focus group.

So the enlisted force are heavily in the area of the security police, they’re in the maintenance, they’re in facilities, so they are not the direct missileers who are in the launch control centers.

So their concerns were — of course you know none of the enlisted force are part of this investigation.  Their concerns essentially had to do with quality of life, they had to do with were they being incentivized fairly.

There were manning levels that were not at 100 percent, in some cases, of course, what that means is the people who are there need to work harder.

So, they were sort of pointing out some of these issues to me that needed to be looked at as well.  And as I tried to point out, I take those very seriously.

If all we cared about was the cheating, although we do care about that deeply, but if that’s all we cared about, we could put additional proctors in the classrooms and be done with it.

But we care about much more than that, and that’s why this is gonna be a holistic approach.

GEN. WILSON:  Let me follow-up on it.  So as part of our force improvement program, that the four functional areas we’ll look at.  Three of those teams will be comprised heavily of enlisted members to get their concerns from the grass root, and how do we address their concerns.

Q:  And — (inaudible) — force improvement program started already?

GEN. WILSON:  Yeah, it has.  The team hasn’t left yet.  But they’ll be moving out next week.

Q:  Okay. Thank you.

Q:  Well — just — thank you.  Just a little more on the drug investigation, what did you find was behind the drug usage and/or possession?  And how are you addressing that issue?

MS. JAMES:  So, I’m afraid, I do not have more information to share just beyond that one number point about the drug investigation today.

Q:  And did you enquire about that during your visit?

MS. JAMES:  I did touch upon that as well, yes, I did.

Yeah, from the back.

Oh I’m sorry.

Q:  General, can I please, a point of clarification.

You say the — the test that Malmstrom, it’s a locally developed test.  Minot has a locally developed test, Warren has a locally developed test.  But they’re all the same, or are they different in nature in what is asked?

GEN. WILSON:  They cover the course material that’s been — that we’re studying for that month, in terms of the procedures that they need to do.  So every month, it was — there’s a training plan.

And they will train on that procedures, and then they get a test on it.  So it’s the basics — the same basic information, but done — had been done differently three different tests at three different wings.

Q:  Three different tests at three different wings — three different wings.  So what an airman is testing on or was testing on last month at Malmstrom, an airman at Warren might be getting different questions?


Q:  And clarifications — did they all require 100 percent to pass?

GEN. WILSON:  No.  The passing is 90 percent.

Q:  At all three?

GEN. WILSON:  At all three bases, it’s 90 percent to pass.  The perception was they needed 100 percent; that if I missed a test question, that then it would — wouldn’t be good enough.  But 90 percent is passing on these tests.

Q:  So that was a perception only at Malmstrom?

MS. JAMES:  So, my feeling, based on my trip last week, is this is the perception everywhere.  And it’s more than perception.  If a commander is using those test scores as the top differentiator to determine whether you get promoted or whether I get promoted, and if I score 100 percent all the time and you score some 100s, some 90s, some 95s, that means I get promoted and you don’t.

So this is what concerns me that these tests are one element, but they’re not the whole-person concept.

Yes, in the back?

Q:  A couple of questions.  First of all, how is it specifically that you know for certain you don’t have cheating incidents at your other locations?  How is it that you can say it’s only at Malmstrom?

My other quick two questions are:  Are these tests — you’ve talked about training versus qualification proficiency.  These tests you’re describing, are they indeed training tests and not qualification, proficiency tests?

And, my third question is, given all of this, and given what you heard from Airmen across the board, how is it that you don’t have — what you might call — a command climate problem?  If the Airmen have these perceptions, they’re getting it from somewhere.

MS. JAMES:  Maybe, let me start, and then General Wilson if you’d pick up, particularly a little bit more about the — the testing.

So I do believe we have systemic problems and I have these seven points based heavily on what I’ve heard and learned about this in the last few weeks.  And it’s this holistic approach that we’re — that we’re gonna take and this action plan that will — that will be the follow up.

So I do believe there are climate issues, and part of that will be assessing commanders, how did this happen.  And that will be part of the follow up as well and the accountability as well.

Q:  (off mic) — How do you know you don’t have cheating in other places, and proficiency versus training?

GEN. WILSON:   Well, let me — so again, immediately after this happen, we gave a no-notice test to the entire crew force that — that was developed by higher headquarters.  It was distributed to those — all 500 crew members on which they — they averaged 95 percent on the test.

Subsequently, we tested again at — at Minot Air Force Base, last week as part of the nuclear surety inspection of which 329 crew members were tested again and they — 99 percent of them passed with a 96 percent average.

So, as part of this, I’ve asked our — this special command directed investigation, led by Lieutenant General Holmes for Marriage Case and Training Command, to go out and look and specifically focus on how we train and test across all our bases.

He’s gonna take a focus to do just that, and he’ll start at F.E. Warren, he’ll go to Malmstrom, he’ll go to Minot and he’ll go to Vandenberg and he’ll report back to me.

Q:  I guess the question remains in my mind, how do you know it — you got very high test scores, I understand.  But how do you know there hasn’t been cheating at other locations in the past?  In the recent past?

GEN. WILSON:  Well, you know, I’ve heard full spectrum, from — (inaudible) — to lots of folks over the last few weeks, as you can imagine.  You know, I’ve read things that said this has gone on for a long time, or it’s not.

That’s the key area that we’re focusing in on is to look at this across the command.

Q:  (inaudible) — with Politico.

You had some population in the retesting that did not pass.  Admiral Kirby said this week I think it was 22.  Is that still the number of Airmen who did not pass?

And can you help us explain to people why those Airmen cannot pass this exam and then get an opportunity to train again and take it again, as opposed to losing their ability to pull this duty?

GEN. WILSON:  Okay.  So, the number is still 22 that didn’t pass.  Every airman, if they fail a proficiency test, is retrained and retested to pass before they’re allowed to pull alert again.

As a precautionary measure, as a result of this investigation, we have temporarily decertified the 92 members, and they’re not pulling alert duty.

If you were to — if you were to fail a monthly proficiency test, you wouldn’t be allowed to perform an alert duty until, again, you were retrained and retested satisfactorily to pass.

GEN. KODLICK:  I know you have the follow-on appointment, but let me give you the opportunity to close and then General Wilson will help wrap it up.

MS. JAMES:  All right.  Thank you again for joining us today.

Top things on my mind, I know yours as well is do we have confidence as Americans in our nuclear mission?  Is it safe and secure?

And the answer is yes it is, and I’ve seen it now firsthand.

The secretary of defense reaffirmed that to me yesterday.  The head of the Strategic Command.  So we are unified in that position.  We are confident in the security of our nuclear mission.

Secondly, we’ve told you about the — the steps which are quick and they’re deliberate and they’re comprehensive that we ‘re taking to address these issues and we will continue to do this in a spirit of — of transparency with all of you.

And lastly, I just wanna say, again, that overall, I have enormous trust and confidence in our Airmen, as a whole, there are thousands and thousands of them out there who are working hard everyday, performing superbly.  And I look forward to continuing to get to know more of them, because they give me great inspiration and great pride.

GEN. WILSON:  Yeah, thank you.

So, the 25,000 Airmen and civilians who make up Air Force Global Strike Command accomplish an extraordinary mission for our nation every single day.

Their mission, strategic to — (inaudible) — is vitally important to our nation.  I think we validated the ICBM crew force remains knowledgeable, capable and credible to perform their mission.

The 341st — Malmstrom Air Force Base continues to meet all its operational commitments.

And what the secretary has talked about, this is all about people.  It’s all about good people, it’s all about motivating people, and it’s all about making sure we have trained, confident, proud people who are professionally and personally fulfilling their job.

And again, I get to see them every single day.  If you did, you’d be just as impressed as I am.  There are some amazing Airmen.  There — there is some amazing civilians and they do a fabulous job every single say, 24/7, 365.

Thank you.

MS. JAMES:  Thank you.