Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday halted production of the new Distinguished Warfare Medal for drone pilots and cyberwarriors, and ordered a review of its ranking above the Bronze Star with Combat "V" and the Purple Heart.
Hagel announced the review following heated criticism from Congress and veterans groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars. No servicemember has received the medal thus far, said George Little, the Pentagon's chief spokesman.
The defense secretary directed Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct the review of the medal's position in the "order of precedence" for military decorations and report back to him in 30 days, Little said.
Here are some comments about the issue:
This idea was stupid right from jump street. Not the medal itself, but the fact it was listed higher than the Bronze Star for Valor and the Purple Heart. Everyone believes that the Drone Pilots should be honored, just not more than the folks on the ground. But what makes me really mad is that when I talked to the DoD about it, they were completely tone deaf to our concerns. As I said a few weeks ago, the Office of SecDef wouldnít even answer my question, except with some nonsense about how this was unanimous:
Why create an award higher than the one that exists, which is even higher than the actions of those facing death, bodily injury etc? Well, according to her, this was the unanimous recommendation of the service chiefs and service secretaries.
I find that difficult to believe. Youíre telling me every one of the service chiefs felt it was appropriate for a drone pilot to get an award higher than that of the JTAC on the ground (like SSG Scott) who was engaging in small arms fire, dodging grenades and coordinating fires? I find that difficult to believe.
Well, apparently new Secretary of Defense Hagel didnít agree that this was such a swell idea:
Why conduct a review at all in that case? Because DoD already told me it was unanimous. You mean theyíll review the original unanimous and come up with a different response?
The Legion has been active on this since word initially leaked out, and National Commander Koutz even discussed it with President Obama in the oval office. He obviously was pleased with the review:
American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz said the decision to take another look at the issue is a good one.
"In no way does the Legion wish to diminish the contributions to our national security, to the security of our deployed troops or to the battle against terrorism represented by the greatly advanced and precise skills exhibited by the operators of these important weapons," Koutz said. "These dedicated men and women deserve recognition for their vital work. However, in the hierarchy of awards, we believe firmly that placing this medal above those given for valor and courage demonstrated on the field of battle is wholly inappropriate.
"We are confident that the committee assembled on behalf of Secretary Hagel will understand the distinction and maintain the integrity of some of our nationís highest personal honors for combat service and sacrifice."
Iíd still love to know what happened here though. Eventually someone will file a Freedom of Information Act and get all the emails discussing this, and I absolutely canít wait to read them. I refuse to believe it was unanimously suggested by the service chiefs, and the fact that DoD tried to sell me that magic bean just a week before doing a complete flip with Hagel's review doesnít speak well of the PR conundrum. Especially if this review finds it should be downgraded, which clearly everyone thinks it should be. Essentially the Service Chiefs and Service Secretaries will be admitting that they didn't look it over, or the DoD was selling something not true.