Engaged with cyber world, US awards medal for drone wars

Engaged with cyber world, US awards medal for drone wars

Engaged with cyber world, US awards medal for drone wars

Pentagon chief Panetta (L) watches soldiers pass by while flanked by his wife Sylvia (2nd L), President Obama (C) and Army Gen Dempsey in Arlington, Virginia. AFP Photo

In a nod to the changing nature of warfare, the Pentagon has created a new medal recognizing the combat contributions of individuals such as drone pilots and cyber warriors who are reshaping the battlefield, even from thousands of kilometers away.

Outgoing Defense Secretary and former CIA Director Leon Panetta, who spent much of the past four years bolstering those new capabilities, announced the decision to create the “Distinguished Warfare Medal” at a Pentagon news conference on Feb. 13.

“I’ve seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought,” Panetta said. “This award recognizes the reality of the kind of technological warfare that we are engaged in, in the 21st century.” The medal will be the ninth-highest warfare medal the Pentagon can bestow on troops. Importantly, it is the only combat medal that a military service member can receive without actually physically being in the same geographic area where combat took place.

Lack of ‘valor’

Previously, drone pilots who remotely guide missiles against important targets in places like Pakistan or Yemen would not qualify for combat awards, because their acts technically lacked “valor,” a key requirement.
“Valor,” as defined by the military, involves extraordinary acts of heroism “while engaged in direct combat with an enemy with exposure to enemy hostilities and personal risk.”

The creation of the medal comes amid a national debate about the transparency behind lethal drone strikes and the powers of the president to order drone attacks against U.S. citizens overseas.

Some lawmakers have proposed the creation of a U.S. “drone court” to approve the targeting of suspected militants. It also comes amid Pentagon efforts to bolster the military’s cyber capabilities, amid increasing concern about hacking from China and Iran.

Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles and bombs have been used to kill insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and by the CIA to go after suspected al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.

Other robotic aircraft, including the stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel and larger Global Hawks, are used to spy on adversaries from the sky without putting pilots in harm’s way.

The military also views cyberspace as a new battlefield and has created a new command dedicated to digital warfare, recruiting and training new “cyber warriors.”

Compiled from Reuters and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.

Hagel faces ‘historic’ delay

WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse

Republicans demanding answers from President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Pentagon forced Senate leaders on Feb. 13 to delay a vote, throwing Chuck Hagel’s confirmation into doubt.

After Hagel was narrowly approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 12 along strict party lines, the Republicans insisted they would try to block a vote in the full Senate. “This is the first time in the history of our country that a presidential nominee for secretary of defense has been filibustered. What a shame,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. To overcome the blocking tactic, Reid scheduled a vote for today to end debate on the Hagel nomination, but such a procedure requires a 60-vote threshold rather than the typical simple majority.

Senate Democrats have warned that now is not the time to waffle over a crucial Cabinet member who directs the U.S. military.