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James speaks on Air Force exam cheating

Published 9:33am Monday, July 14, 2014

WASHINGTON — When Deborah Lee James became top boss of the Air Force seven months ago she had no inkling a nuclear crisis was brewing. But once it erupted in the form of exam-cheating by dozens of missile launch officers, she quickly announced conclusions that no Air Force leader before her had dared state publicly.

The nuclear missile corps’ problems run deep, she said, morale is “spotty” and forceful fixes are needed.

James reached those conclusions in January after a short visit to the three Air Force bases that operate intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. She met not only with commanders but with the rank-and-file, including enlisted airmen who keep the missiles running properly and junior officers trained to launch them.

To her it seemed natural to acknowledge this publicly, although others in the Air Force had chosen not to.