Ten US Air Force officers are being investigated for alleged illegal drug possession, air force officials said on Friday, a day after the probe surfaced as US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was visiting a base to rally airmen in the US nuclear force.
US Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Brett Ashworth said that nine lieutenants and a captain at six bases in the US and Britain were implicated in the investigation.
Ashworth said the investigation began with two officers at Edwards Air Force Base in California and “expanded, based on contact with the officers in question regarding recreational drug possession.”
Edwards is the second-largest US air force base and is central to new aircraft and weapons testing.
The probe has expanded to include US officers at Malmstrom, Vandenberg, F.E. Warren and Schreiver air force bases, as well as the British Royal Air Force Lakenheath in England, home to a US fighter wing, Ashworth said.
News of the investigation emerged on Thursday after the US Air Force suspended the security clearances of two missile launch officers in a drug probe at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
The base is one of three responsible for the US’ 420 nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The US Air Force action came as Hagel was at a sister nuclear missile base — F.E. Warren in Cheyenne, Wyoming — preparing to rally troops responsible for maintaining and staffing the launch sites.
Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is home to the US Air Force’s space and missile testing facilities, and Schreiver in Colorado is home to its Space Warfare Center and Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.