Hagel Halts Drone Medal

Chuck Hagel has cemented his legacy as the greatest Secretary of Defense ever.


Chuck Hagel has cemented his legacy as the greatest Secretary of Defense ever.

WaPo (“Hagel orders halt to production of drone pilot, cyberwarrior medal“):

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the military to stop production of a controversial new medal pending a 30-day study of whether the award for drone pilots and cyberwarriors should outrank medals given for battlefield bravery.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal, approved by former secretary Leon E. Panetta during his final days in office last month, was criticized by members of Congress and veterans groups because it was ranked above the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the military’s order of precedence.


The official said Hagel placed Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in charge of the review and asked him to report back in 30 days.

My guess remains that the medal is retained but appropriately ranked.

Previously: “Distinguished Warfare Medal for Armchair Warriors“ and “Congress Asks Hagel To Demote Drone Medal.”

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. nitpicker says:

    There’s no reason they need a separate medal. If they’re particularly good pilots, they should get a Navy/Army/Air Force Achievement/Commendation medal or, if merited, an MSM. Most medals aren’t designed for people with particular jobs, so this one is unnecessary.

  2. Mark Ivey says:

    The PS-3 generation is somewhat disappointed i bet.

  3. anjin-san says:

    Certainly people who work in the drone program deserve recognition. That being said, there is a big difference between directing combat operations from the safety of a remote location, and getting your ass shot at.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    I’ve always thought that medals in the military are for people who are at danger from things like live fire. If you want to have a medal for death from overwork (karoshi), shouldn’t it be look like a tiny Rising Sun? And be funded by a corporation? (I guess to be up to date, it would look like an apple with a bite taken out of it and be given out by Foxcomm.)

  5. legion says:

    @nitpicker: You’re entirely correct. At best, you might be able to argue for an Air Medal, but I’m guessing that politics is what has driven the creation of something separate like this – the “real pilots” wouldn’t countenance dilution of “their” award by offering it to drone-jockeys as well. IMNSHO, they need to be told to suck it up, and this medal should be canned.

  6. Jeremy says:

    @legion: I dunno if flying a drone from the comfort of your office should qualify for the Air Medal. A lot less risk, there.

  7. Jeremy says:

    They should just can it. Medals for valor should only be given for actions under fire. Otherwise, it utterly cheapens the military. Of course, in 20 years everything might be done by robots, so it might not matter, then.

  8. Tyrell says:

    There should be some recognition for accuracy and marksmanship, but not a medal.

  9. Al says:

    The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots.

  10. ernieyeball says:

    @Jeremy: …comfort of your office…

    Since the enemy attack on the Headquarters of the United States Department of Defense on September 11, 2001 I have to wonder where that might be.

  11. legion says:

    @ernieyeball: There’s a big difference between acknowledging the hazards inherent in a job and providing special recognition for expected performance…

  12. legion says:

    I gotta say, between this and stepping in promptly to review that horrifying General overturning the rape conviction thing, I’m really likeing Hagel as SecDef so far…