The Defense Department announced that the plans for a new medal for drone pilots and cyber warriors have been canceled.
A number of groups representing military associations and vet service organizations had lobbied the White House to instruct the Defense Department to lower the ranking of the new drone medal. They would like the Distinguished Warfare Medal to be ranked below the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal had been announced by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The new Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, then asked the Pentagon to review the metal’s ranking after public outcry. The 19 organizations banded together as part of the request stated in their letter to president Obama that they would like the Distinguished Warfare metal to be demoted to below the Purple Heart, and were soliciting the president’s “personal involvement.”
The groups included The American Legion, The Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, and other associations representing both active duty and reserve duty members of the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal was to be awarded to recognize the actions of the drone pilots and cyber warfare specialists when they have “a direct impact” on operations of combat. But critics said they were concerned that decorating a service member who may be hundreds or even thousands of miles from active action would be given precedence over those who risk their lives and are not fighting from remote, secure locations.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal was to rank just below the valor award that is the Distinguished Flying Cross, and above the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Drone operators and cyber warriors can contribute tremendously to any combat operation in which they are involved, critics agreed, but they argued that the proposed new medal awarded to individuals who do not physically serve in a war zone and yet would be ranked above injury and valor medals from physical combat seemed unjust.
President Obama could, as Commander-In-Chief, order the medal’s ranking be changed or direct the Defense Secretary to do so, said former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Lawrence Korb. But with the Department of Defense withdrawing the plan, neither Obama nor Hagel needed to do so.