A panel of Medal of Honor recipients would have a say
in the process of issuing military awards for valor under a
compromise being pushed by a
Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Calif., a freshman congressman
who served two tours in Iraq
and one in
Afghanistan, believes a panel
of people who have already received the military’s highest medal
for gallantry and valor could look over the paperwork of
nominations for awards to determine if they are appropriate,
given the heroic act that led to the nomination.
“In some cases, many cases, I think a panel of 10 or so
people who have received the Medal of Honor would look at
citations and recommend an ‘up-award,’ such as taking a Navy
Cross and making it a Medal of Honor,” Hunter said Wednesday.
“In some cases, they might recommend reducing an award.”
A panel would not have the final word but simply would
advise Defense Secretary Robert Gates of their recommendation on
the appropriate medal — which could be ignored.
“The key thing, though, is that they would have their
own experience on which to judge decisions,” Hunter said. “They
would be able to make comparisons about why they received the
medal to the citation, and would know if this act is deserving
of a higher award.”
Hunter’s suggestion comes as part of a year-long effort
he has made to get a full review of the criteria used for valor
awards. In particular, he wants a review to look at why no Medal
of Honor has been awarded to a living service member since Vietnam.
“I don’t have a quota in mind, like there needs to be
five Medals of Honor handed out in the next two years, but I
think it is worth looking at why there has not been one to a
living person in 40 years,” he said.
Hunter said his call for a review, approved by the
House of Representatives as part of its version of the 2010
defense authorization bill, has received criticism from some
lawmakers for pushing politics into the awards process.
Hunter said that is not his intent. “Congress really
has nothing to do with it and should not have anything to do
with it,” he said.
He is pitching the idea of a Medal of Honor review
panel to colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee, who
are in negotiations with the Senate Armed Services Committee
over final details of the 2010 defense policy bill. A final bill
is expected to come from those talks by about Oct. 1, the start
of the fiscal year.
Exactly how many people would serve on a panel and how
they would be selected has not been decided, Hunter said.
“I don’t want politics involved in this at all, so I
would be happy if the Medal of Honor Society picked the panel
members,” he said. “I just think it would be good to have an