Pentagon will not create Distinguished Warfare Medal for UAS and cyber

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel today canceled the establishment of a Distinguished Warfare Medal for service members involved with unmanned aerial systems and cyber operations, but agreed to create a “distinguishing device that may be affixed to existing medals at various levels.” Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta proposed the medal in mid-February, but it has come under attack from veterans and others who expressed concerned that the new medal would take precedence over some medals awarded for actual combat service.

“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,” Hagel wrote in a memorandum released April 15.

“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 memo continued: “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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