House members are taking issue with a new Defense Department medal’s prominence in the hierarchy of military awards.
The Pentagon announced last month the creation of a new medal to adapt to a new era of technological warfare — and reward drone operators for well-placed strikes.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to service members whose extraordinary achievements, regardless of their distance to the traditional combat theater, deserve distinct department-wide recognition.
“I have seen first-hand how modern tools like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems have changed the way wars can be fought,” said former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the time. “We should also have the ability to honor extraordinary actions that make a true difference in combat operations, even if those actions are physically removed from the fight.”
But House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel Chairman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and 48 other lawmakers asked new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to reconsider the DoD decision to place it above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the order of precedence.
Several Democrats signed the letter, including Iraq War combat veteran and double amputee Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
“We are supportive of recognizing and rewarding such extraordinary service but in the absence of the service member exposing him or herself to imminent mortal danger, we cannot support the DWM taking precedence above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart,” the lawmakers wrote.
“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. The imminent danger area requirement of the Bronze Star historically means that a service member has been deployed overseas for a military operation involving conflict with an opposing armed force,” they continued.
The lawmakers asked Hagel to “lower the precedence of the DWM to an appropriate level below the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.”
Wilson said the precedence of the new medal “does a disservice to our service members and veterans who have severed overseas in hostile and austere conditions.”
“It is my hope that Secretary Hagel will change the Department’s decision so that our veterans who have earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart will receive the appropriate recognition they deserve,” Wilson said.