Hagel cancels medal for drone strikes, cyber operations

Published April 16, 2013

WASHINGTON — In the face of withering criticism, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has canceled the creation of a new military medal for drone and cyber warriors, instead ordering military leaders to develop a special pin or device that would be attached to already existing medals or ribbons.

Hagel's predecessor, Leon Panetta, created the Distinguished Warfare Medal in February to be awarded to troops such as drone operators and cyber warriors who have a major effect on a military operation but never set foot in the combat zone. That decision triggered broad complaints from veterans and lawmakers who said it should not be ranked higher than traditional combat medals such as the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Hagel said that while the department should recognize the extraordinary achievements of those troops, the award should not be a stand-alone medal.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars and other groups had sent a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to keep the medal ranked below the Purple Heart, which is awarded for combat injuries.