Pentagon Strikes 'Drone Medal'

Awards for drone pilots, cyber warriors to be replaced with device for existing medals.


The Department of Defense has decided to nix a medal that would honor pilots of drones and other cyber warriors.

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Plans for a new medal that would recognize the efforts of drone pilots, cyber warriors and others who do not fight at the front lines have been scrapped, the Defense Department announced Monday.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal has been the subject of great criticism since former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced its creation on Feb. 13, mostly aimed at its placement as higher than the Bronze Star Medal or Purple Heart.

[READ: Pentagon Says 'Drone Medal' Beats Bronze Star, Purple Heart]

Current Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Joint Chiefs to conduct a review of the medal shortly after he took office at the end of February, and announced Monday it would be scrapped in favor for a new device to be added to existing medals.

"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," he said in a written statement. "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 award was designed to recognize those who have an "extraordinary impact on combat operations" while serving off the battlefield. After conducting the review, the Joint Chief of Staff recommended to Hagel the creation of a distinguishing device to be added to existing medals to recognize these efforts, instead of a new medal.

[ALSO: Hagel Orders Review of 'Drone Medal']

Current medals, such as the Bronze Star or commendation medals for all service branches, have devices such as a "V" that can be affixed to them to denote valorous acts.

Hagel gave the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and the Joint Chiefs 90 days to determine the final criteria and other specifics for the new distinguishing device.

The secretary thanked Panetta for his efforts 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."

[BROWSE: Political Cartoons on  Drones]

A bipartisan group of 50 members of Congress sent a note to Hagel in early March denouncing the new medal.

"The current order of precedence for the DWM is a disservice to Purple Heart recipients who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country or were wounded while serving in combat," according to the text of the letter. "We also feel it is a disservice to our service members and veterans who have, or who currently are, serving overseas in hostile and austere conditions."

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