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Air Force says latest missteps don't equate to failure; others cite worrying pattern

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    This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014 shows a mockup of a Minuteman 3 nuclear missile used for training by missile maintenance crews at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. As disclosures of disturbing behavior by nuclear missile officers mount, to now include alleged drug use and exam cheating, Air Force leaders insist the trouble is episodic, correctable and not cause for public worry. The question persists, nonetheless: At what point do breakdowns in discipline put nuclear security in jeopardy? (AP Photo/Robert Burns)The Associated Press

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    This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014 shows Capt. Lauren Choate, a Minuteman 3 missile launch officer, at the console of a launch simulator used for training at F. E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. As disclosures of disturbing behavior by nuclear missile officers mount, to now include alleged drug use and exam cheating, Air Force leaders insist the trouble is episodic, correctable and not cause for public worry. The question persists, nonetheless: At what point do breakdowns in discipline put nuclear security in jeopardy? (AP Photo/Robert Burns)The Associated Press

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    FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2013 file photo, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel takes questions as he briefs reporters at the Pentagon in Washington. As disclosures of disturbing behavior by nuclear missile officers mount, to now include alleged drug use and exam cheating, Air Force leaders insist the trouble is episodic, correctable and not cause for public worry. The question persists, nonetheless: At what point do breakdowns in discipline put nuclear security in jeopardy? This issue has now grabbed the attention of Hagel, who until recently had said little in public about a string of setbacks and missteps in the nuclear missile force reported by The Associated Press beginning in May 2013.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)The Associated Press

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    FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2013 file photo, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. A drug investigation of officers at six Air Force bases, including two that operate nuclear missiles, has been widened to include allegations of cheating on certification tests, defense officials said Wednesday. Welsh and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James planned a news conference Wednesday to update the status of the investigation. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)The Associated Press

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    This image provided by the U.S. Air Force shows Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, right, and Tech. Sgt. Justin Richie, a 341st Maintenance Operations Squadron team trainer, riding in a work cage on Nov. 20, 2012, inside the T-9 maintenance trainer at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The Air Force says 34 nuclear missile launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana have been implicated in a cheating scandal and have been stripped of their certification. It is believed to be the largest such breach of integrity in the nuclear force.(AP Photo/U.S. Air Force, Beau Wade)The Associated Press

At what point do breakdowns in discipline put the country's nuclear security in jeopardy?

And when does a string of embarrassing episodes in arguably the military's most sensitive mission become a pattern of failure?

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is now concerned "there could be something larger afoot here," according to his chief spokesman, and "wants this taken very, very seriously."

The disclosures of disturbing behavior by nuclear missile officers are mounting and now include alleged drug use and exam cheating. Yet Air Force leaders insist the trouble is episodic, correctible and not cause for public worry.

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