Author’s Note: This is an update based on the story posted here. Despite disagreeing with Mr. Hagel on several positions, I applaud this decision.
WASHINGTON — The special medal for the Pentagon’s drone operators and cyberwarriors didn’t last long.
Two months after the military rolled out the Distinguished Warfare Medal for troops who don’t set foot on the battlefield, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has concluded it was a bad idea. Some veterans and some lawmakers spoke out against the award, arguing that it was unfair to make the medal a higher honor than some issued for valor on the battlefield.
The controversy echoed a broader debate over defense policy, irking those who feel uneasy about the extent to which remote-controlled aircraft have become the tip of America’s spear in the war against extremists abroad.
After ordering a review of a policy that was one of his predecessor’s last official moves, Hagel said Monday that he concluded no such medal was needed. Instead, he said, a “device” will be affixed to existing medals to recognize those who fly and operate drones, whom he described as “critical to our military’s mission of safeguarding the nation.”
Devices are used by the Pentagon to add a specific form of additional recognition when troops are lauded for exceptional performance.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, one of the groups that had been critical of the medal, praised Hagel for promptly taking on the issue.
Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the award on Feb. 13, one of his last days in office, saying that the evolution of combat warranted a new inclusion for men and women who perform game-changing acts remotely.
The Pentagon said no service members had been nominated for the new medal.