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Hagel Orders Review of Military Decorations, Awards Program

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a comprehensive review of the military decorations and awards program, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said here today.

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Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby briefs reporters at the Pentagon, March 20, 2014, saying Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a comprehensive review of the military decorations and award program. Kirby also discussed a telephone call between Hagel and Russia's defense minister about the situation in Ukraine. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The secretary wants to capture the lessons learned from 13 years of combat to improve the program, Kirby said. The review will begin in June under the direction of Jessica L. Wright, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. It is due to be completed in June 2015.

Wright will consult closely with Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the military department secretaries and chiefs and the combatant commanders, Kirby said during a Pentagon news conference.

“Secretary Hagel believes this is a solemn obligation for the Department of Defense, one that we can never take lightly,” the admiral said. “The review will focus on ensuring that the awards program appropriately recognizes all levels of combat valor, as well as the service, sacrifices and actions of all our service members.”

The review will examine how the awards program is structured to make sure that it fully reflects the joint nature of warfare, the admiral said. “It will examine the processes and procedures of how medals for valor are nominated in order to determine whether they can be improved or streamlined and help make the overall awards process more timely,” he added, “and it will determine the best way to recognize service members who use remote technology to directly impact combat operations, such as through cyber and remotely piloted aircraft.”

Some awards and decorations are service-specific, and others cut across the military. The secretary recognizes joint military operations have become the norm, Kirby told reporters. “You don't have to look any farther than what we accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan to see how joint the services have become,” he said, “and I think it's a fair question to ask: do we need to look at the kinds of awards that we give, particularly for combat valor, in a more joint nature than perhaps some of them are? It doesn’t mean that there will be changes, but I think he wants to look at everything across the whole scope.”

Hagel wants the panel to examine how the services submit and evaluate and decide on major combat awards, Kirby said. “I think he would like to get a better sense of what discrepancies there may be between the services, and do those discrepancies need to be closed?” he added. “The answer may be no. But I think he wants to ask those questions.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS

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Defense Department Announces Comprehensive Awards Review

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