Defense Department to Review Military Awards Program

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2006 - In an effort to provide clarity in awards standards across the military services, the Defense Department has begun a comprehensive review of military awards and decorations, a DoD official said here yesterday.

This routine review will result in revision of DoD Instruction 1348.33-M, the Manual of Military Decorations and Awards, Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, said in an interview. The changing nature of warfare in the global war on terror and lessons learned over the past few years have prompted some changes to make the system work better across the military, Carr said.

"It's been about 10 years since we've reviewed our directive in a comprehensive way and, given the events of the global war on terror -- our experience operationally in that environment, there are some changes we think we can make to give greater clarity and consistency to the awards," he said.

The review will focus on several specific areas where discrepancies among the different branches of the military have come to light, Carr said.

One of these areas is the criteria for "V" devices and Purple Heart Medals, he said. In the Army, the "V" device only is awarded for valor, whereas in the other services, it can be awarded simply for a servicemember's presence in the theater of operations, he explained. When it comes to Purple Hearts, the different services have slightly different standards for level of injury, Carr said.

Another area that will be addressed in the review is the definition of the theater of operations when it comes to expeditionary medals, Carr said. The Air Force defines the theater of operations as the globe, because their pilots fly all over the world, but other services define the theater as a specific piece of ground, he said.

"The review itself really is generated by questions that arose from the services, one by one, over the past couple of years," Carr said. "Concerns have been expressed by one service about the practices of another service, and as we saw that pattern, it was pretty clear that it was now time to conduct a more comprehensive review."

A working group consisting of representatives from each service, the Joint Staff and the Institute of Heraldry will form the core of the comprehensive review effort, Carr said. There will also be a structure in place to address institutional changes that come up from the review, he said.

The review is expected to last about six months, and shortly thereafter, if the services have achieved a consensus, DoD will be able to move pretty quickly with publication of the new instruction, Carr said.

After the review, DoD will have one set of standards for awards procedures, as it does now, Carr said. Discrepancies have arisen because of language in the current standards that can be interpreted differently, he said. With this review, DoD officials hope to make the standards clearer and more objective, he said.

"There probably are ways to do that and, if we achieve it, we'll have greater consistency," he said.

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