Pentagon Halts Production of Drone, Cyberwarfare Medal Amid Backlash

The military has halted production of its new medal for drone- and  cyber-warfare, ordering a review in response to complaints about what some have  derisively dubbed the “Nintendo” medal.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed Tuesday that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has  asked Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to lead a review and report back  in 30 days in light of the controversy.

At issue is the newly created Distinguished Warfare Medal, which was to be  awarded to troops who operate drones and use other technological skills to fight  America’s wars from afar — most controversial was the fact that it has been  ranked above medals for those who served on the front line in harm’s way, such  as the Purple Heart given to wounded troops.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who has introduced a bill to lower the medal’s  ranking, said the award is “widely viewed as an award that undermines all other  valor awards and the reverence for servicemembers who face the dangers of direct  combat.”

“It’s a fact that those who are off the battlefield do not experience the  same risks. Pretending they do devalues the courageous and selfless actions of  others, who, during combat, do the unthinkable or show a willingness to  sacrifice their own lives,” he said in a statement.

If the review agrees with that complaint about the medal, it would likely  have to be renamed and new medals manufactured, a government official said on  condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the  record.

There is a practical side to the rankings. There are grades of medals —  commendation, merit, distinguished — that affect not only the name but  promotions for those still serving in uniform. Each grade gives troops a certain  number of points needed for promotions.

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the new medal last month,  saying it was meant to recognize battlefield contributions in a world of  changing warfare.

“I’ve seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and  cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought,” Panetta said. “And they’ve  given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of  battle, even from afar.”

Over the last decade of war, remotely piloted Predator and Reaper drones have  become a critical weapon to gather intelligence and conduct airstrikes against  terrorists or insurgents around the world. They have been used extensively on  the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in strikes in Pakistan,  Yemen and northern Africa.

Over the same time, cyberattacks have become a growing national security  threat, with Panetta and others warning that the next Pearl Harbor could well be  a computer-based assault.

Officials said in announcing the medal last month that it would be the first  combat-related award to be created since the Bronze Star in 1944. And they said  that in recognition of the evolving 21st century warfare, the medal would be  considered a bit higher in ranking than the Bronze Star, but lower than the  Silver Star.

The Veterans of Foreign War and other groups say that ranking it ahead of the  Bronze Star and Purple Heart is an injustice to those who served on the  front-lines.

John Bircher, a spokesman for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, has  said the veterans groups are not objecting to the medal — just the ranking. He  said some medals ranked ahead of the Purple Heart are achievement medals that  can be earned outside of war time. What bothers many veterans is that the new  Distinguished Warfare Medal appears be a war-time medal that trumps acts of  valor, which he finds insulting.

The backlash to the Pentagon’s announcement included an online petition to  the White House signed by thousands of people. The petition called the medal “an  injustice to those who served and risked their lives” and asked that it not be  allowed to move forward as planned.


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1 Comment on Pentagon Halts Production of Drone, Cyberwarfare Medal Amid Backlash

  1. I don’t get the need for a new medal in the first place. I served in the Navy for over 25 years and I have (had) a whole chest full of medals by the time I retired, but I never did anything that required the Navy to “manufacture” a new medal. Instead, my superiors simply matched my actions with the appropriate commendation and that was it. So there’s absolutely no need to make a new one, especially one that will divide the troops like this one will do, but that’s the whole idea behind it – not to award someone for bravery or anything like that, but to put another wedge between members of the armed services. That’s Obama’s goal – divide and conquer. The best thing to do, which is what they have ALWAYS done when a new type of warfare has been developed and used successfully, is to figure out where in the grand scheme of PRE-EXISTING medals it belongs, and place it there. Each military branch has one they can choose to add drone piloting to, and they can add it to an already existent joint medal if they desire. But stop this silly division among the troops. Haven’t the two major divisive issues of openly serving gays and women in combat already done enough to harm morale and unit cohesion? Do we really need any more?

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