The Pentagon has no plans to lower the precedence of its new medal for drone pilots and cyber warriors, notwithstanding criticism from veterans groups and troops that the medal ranks higher than some awarded for valor in combat.
"The decision has been made," Juliet Beyler, acting director for Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management at the Defense Department, said during a telephone discussion Wednesday with reporters.
She said there has been no opposition at the highest levels of the Pentagon to the new medal. It had the backing of the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Beyler said the Defense Department's Institute of Heraldry is now at work creating the actual medal. The first 100 will be produced within the next 45 to 90 days, she said, and it will likely be several months before anyone is awarded a medal.
No service branch has indicated they have any member now being considered for the medal, she said.
Soon after its announcement on Feb. 13, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Military Order of the Purple Heart both slammed the decision to rank the award higher than the Bronze Star with V device and the Purple Heart, both medals earned in physical combat or through direct enemy action.
"We certainly respect the VFW but only three medals are given solely for valor -- the Medal of Honor, the service crosses and the Silver Star -- and the DWM is below in precedence all of those," Beyler said.
Bronze Stars are given more often to recognize exemplary service, with just 2 percent of those presented to troops since Sept. 11, 2001, awarded for valorous actions, she said.
The Army, Air Force and Navy/Marine Corps Commendation medals may also be awarded with a "V" device for valor, but are primarily achievement awards.
The DWF would not be the first achievement award with a higher precedence than a combat medal, she said. The Legion of Merit also is awarded for achievement but ranks higher than the Bronze Star. She acknowledged that the Legion of Merit is primarily awarded to field grade officers -- lieutenant colonel and above.
She also said the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal would not be appropriate because they are for "sustained meritorious service over time … about 24 months," while the Pentagon leaders wanted to recognize achievement that had a direct impact on combat operations.
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