New cyber medal production stopped, being reviewed
"I've seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought," Panetta said. "And they've given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar."
Over the last decade of war, remotely piloted Predator and Reaper drones have become a critical weapon to gather intelligence and conduct airstrikes against terrorists or insurgents around the world. They have been used extensively on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and northern Africa.
Over the same time, cyberattacks have become a growing national security threat, with Panetta and others warning that the next Pearl Harbor could well be a computer-based assault.
Officials said in announcing the medal last month that it would be the first combat-related award to be created since the Bronze Star in 1944. And, they said that in recognition of the evolving 21st century warfare, the medal would be considered a bit higher in ranking than the Bronze Star, but lower than the Silver Star.
The VFW and other groups say that ranking it ahead of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart is an injustice to those who served on the front-lines.
John Bircher, a spokesman for the Military Order of the Purple Heart, has said the veterans groups are not objecting to the medal — just the ranking. He said some medals ranked ahead of the Purple Heart are achievement medals that can be earned outside of war time. What bothers many veterans is that the new Distinguished Warfare Medal appears be a war-time medal that trumps acts of valor, which he finds insulting.
The backlash to the Pentagon's announcement included an online petition to the White House signed by thousands of people. The petition called the medal "an injustice to those who served and risked their lives" and asked that it not be allowed to move forward as planned.
Hunter said the decision to rank the new medal "so high represents everything that's wrong with the awards process."
"Acts of valor in Iraq and Afghanistan have been underrepresented, with only 11 Medals of Honor awarded," he said in a statement, naming troops who he said "have been failed by the awards process" and calling on the military to correct their cases.
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