A new medal that had been proposed by former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in February, to honor the exceptional achievements of US combat drone pilots and cyber soldiers, was downgraded today by his successor to a "distinguishing device" that can only be attached to other medals. "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," said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a statement released this afternoon, acknowledging the open controversy surrounding the creation of the new medal.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal would have been the first new medal since the Bronze Star, which was created in the wake of World War II, and a higher award than that. Yet the new medal was restricted from soldiers participating in direct combat. Those facts, along with the general controversy surrounding America's use of drones in fighting terrorism, raised the ire of some veterans, citizens, and members of Congress following the release of the new medal's design.
"misconceptions regarding the precedence of the award were distracting from its original purpose."
So shortly took office in late February, Hagel ordered a review of the complaints and concerns about the so-called "drone medal." Now, Hagel says he agrees with that review's findings that "misconceptions regarding the precedence of the award were distracting from its original purpose." Still, he wants some way to commend drone operators and cyberwarriors, hence the new, lesser award. Veterans' groups applauded Hagel's move to downgrade the medal to attachment, Stars and Stripes reports. The Secretary of Defense also ordered a new design and criteria for the medal attachment to be drafted and submitted to him within 90 days.