The Pentagon is cancelling a controversial medal designed to recognize contributions of unmanned aerial vehicle pilots and cyber troops, according to a Monday memorandum signed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel obtained by USNI News.
Instead of creating the planned Distinguished Warfare Medal, a “distinguishing device,” will be affixed to existing medals to recognize contributions away from the battlefield, according to the letter.
The creation of the device, instead of the medal, “reserves our existing combat medals for those service members who incur the physical risk and hardship of combat, perform valorous acts, or are wounded in combat or as a result of combat,” wrote Hagel.
The decision was the result of a month-long review led by Joint Chiefs Chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, announced in March by Pentagon officials.
When the Distinguished Warfare Medal was introduced in February by then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, it was higher in precedence than a Bronze Star with valor device or Purple Heart.
“[Panetta] realized, as do I, that the extraordinary and meritorious achievements of our service men and women who employ this technology deserve distinct recognition. I am grateful to him for initiating this effort,” wrote Hagel.
The award almost immediately came under fire from Congress and groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Several members of Congress also criticized the medal’s rank.
Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor Recipient and Vietnam veteran, told USNI News in March the medal was, “a telling and sad commentary on the judgment of those who are responsible for the creation and approval of this award.”