The U.S. Navy's top admiral says the department is investigating an allegation that senior officers at a nuclear training facility cheated on a written qualification exam.
Speaking at the Pentagon Tuesday, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, said that to say he is disappointed "would be an understatement." Calling integrity the foundation of the Navy's conduct, he said the department will hold the appropriate people accountable if the claim is proven true.
The director of the program in question - the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program - Admiral John Richardson said he could not say how many officers allegedly were involved in the incident, although he estimated it would be far fewer than 160 sailors -- one percent of the 16,000 sailors in the program -- and likely less than 20.
Those said to have cheated were instructors being re-tested on their theoretical knowledge of operating the nuclear reactors that provide propulsion for Navy submarines and aircraft carriers. Richardson told reporters the incident took place in the Navy's nuclear power school in Charleston, South Carolina, and is not related to nuclear weapons.
The news follows reports of cheating in the U.S. Air Force among officers who operate land-based nuclear missiles.
Richardson said the Navy exam program is different from the testing system the Air Force uses for its officers. He said the cheating allegation came to light on Monday when a sailor reported to the command that he had received an offer to participate.
Richardson confirmed the test in question involved classified information. But he stressed that the Nuclear Propulsion Program responds "aggressively and forcefully" when confronted with problems of integrity.
He said all personnel implicated in the cheating so far have been removed from the site, and that the training reactors, which were shut down for routine maintenance when the cheating was reported, will not begin operating again until he is "personally satisfied that appropriate corrective actions have been taken."