THE PENTAGON — Defense officials are in damage-control mode following the revelation from the Inspector General's office that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel allegedly cheated on his annual proficiency exam.
The finding couldn't come at a worse time for the Pentagon, which is still dealing with an ongoing investigation into cheating amongst Air Force nuclear officers.
"In the course of our investigation, we found that Hagel repeatedly copied off numerous undersecretaries of defense during evaluations," the inspector general's office said in a statement. The IG noted that Hagel was likely trying to get ahead of younger officials who are gunning for the top spot.
"To say I am disappointed would be an understatement," said President Obama. "We expect more from our defense officials, especially our senior one."
First established in 1961, the Defense Secretary Proficiency and Evaluation Exam is a rigorous test given at senior levels of Pentagon leadership. The test, like most written exams in the military, is mainly multiple choice and asks questions on topics ranging from military procurement to warfighting.
The test's final section, focusing on invading foreign countries, destroying their infrastructure then rebuilding it and creating a stable democracy, is arguably the hardest. So tough in fact that former secretaries Gates and Rumsfeld failed the section entirely.
Still, there were warning signs ahead of the IG's formal report. During the investigation it was learned that Hagel had attempted to forge signatures on other certifications in the past. At one point, Hagel allegedly signed his cyber awareness certification with the name 'Bob Obama.'
"I barely ever see the guy," said Hagel during a hasty press conference. "I couldn't really remember his name at the time."