Defense Secretary Hagel kills proposed Distinguished Warfare Medal

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

(cnn)

An award for drone operators that drew an angry response from lawmakers was downgraded to a lesser distinction Monday by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal, which was approved last month by Hagel’s predecessor, Leon Panetta, was to recognize “extraordinary direct impacts on combat operations.” But the honor denotes that the action is not bound by a “geographic limitation,” meaning operators on unmanned drones would have been eligible.

Some lawmakers expressed concern the medal would be placed above those for battlefield valor, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. In March, the production of the medal was halted so Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey could conduct a review.

“The Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the concurrence of the service secretaries, have recommended the creation of a new distinguishing device that can be affixed to existing medals to recognize the extraordinary actions of this small number of men and women,” Hagel said Monday. “I agree with the Joint Chiefs’ findings, and have directed the creation of a distinguishing device instead of a separate medal.”

The exact nature of the distinction remained unclear Monday – Hagel said he was directing service secretaries and veterans’ organizations to define the parameters for eligibility for the award. Those details will come in the next 90 days, Hagel said.

“The service men and women, who operate and support our remotely piloted aircraft, operate in cyber, and others are critical to our military’s mission of safeguarding the nation,” Hagel wrote. “I again want to thank my predecessor, Leon Panetta, for raising the need to ensure that these men and women are recognized for their contributions.”

Full statement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:

The Department of Defense announced on Feb. 13 the establishment of the Distinguished Warfare Medal to recognize the achievements of a small number of service men and women who have an especially direct and immediate impact on combat operations through the use of remotely piloted aircraft and cyber operations. I agree with my predecessor Leon Panetta that such recognition is justly warranted for these men and women and thank him for raising the level of awareness of their hard work and critical contributions.

 

When I came into office, concerns were raised to me about the Distinguished Warfare Medal’s order of precedence by veterans’ organizations, members of Congress, and other stakeholders whose views are valued by this department’s leadership.

 

After consulting with the service secretaries, along with Gen. Dempsey and the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I directed them to review the Distinguished Warfare Medal. The medal was originally conceived to be awarded only to those men and women who, while serving off the battlefield, have an extraordinary impact on combat operations. While the review confirmed the need to ensure such recognition, it found that misconceptions regarding the precedence of the award were distracting from its original purpose.

 

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the concurrence of the service secretaries, have recommended the creation of a new distinguishing device that can be affixed to existing medals to recognize the extraordinary actions of this small number of men and women. I agree with the Joint Chiefs’ findings, and have directed the creation of a distinguishing device instead of a separate medal.

 

The Joint Chiefs also recommend further consultation with the service secretaries, the service senior enlisted leaders, and veterans’ organizations regarding the nature of the device as well as clear definition of the eligibility criteria for award of the device. I have directed that within 90 days final award criteria and the other specifics of the distinguishing device be developed and presented to me for final approval.

 

The service men and women, who operate and support our remotely piloted aircraft, operate in cyber, and others are critical to our military’s mission of safeguarding the nation. I again want to thank my predecessor, Leon Panetta, for raising the need to ensure that these men and women are recognized for their contributions.

 

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