The Pentagon’s newest medal: Recognition for achievements in cyber-combat

posted at 5:21 pm on February 13, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

On Tuesday, President Obama signed an executive order meant to enhance our country’s cyber-defenses by directing government officials to improve the channels of cybersecurity information-sharing between the federal entities and companies that manage the various aspects of our digital infrastructure. Reviews were mixed, via Reuters:

U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed an executive order seeking better protection of the country’s critical infrastructure from cyber attacks that are a growing concern to the economy and national security.

The long-expected executive order, unveiled in the State of the Union speech, follows last year’s failed attempt by the U.S. Congress to pass a law to confront continuing electronic attacks on the networks of U.S. companies and government agencies.

The order, which does not have the same force as law, directs federal authorities to improve information sharing on cyber threats – including some that may be classified – with companies that provide or support critical infrastructure. …

His bill last year passed the House of Representatives but not the Senate, largely because of concerns about expansion of federal regulations and protecting private information when it comes to sharing private data with the government.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the powerful business lobby, reiterated its opposition to “expansion or creation of new regulatory regimes” and called Obama’s order unnecessary.

The White House has been turning up the volume on emphasizing the clutch importance of bettering our cyber defenses, particularly via Departing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Pentagon’s latest initiative to beef up their cyber security force, and the effort to get some real bipartisan legislation going again got some real estate in last night’s State of the Union:

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber attacks.

Now, we know hackers steal people’s identities and infiltrate private e-mails. We know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets. Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions, our air traffic control systems.

We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy. That’s why, earlier today, I signed a new executive order that will strengthen our cyber defenses by increasing information-sharing and developing standards to protect our national security, our jobs, and our privacy.

But now — now Congress must act, as well, by passing legislation to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks. This is something we should be able to get done on a bipartisan basis.

But if the cyber networks are a new frontier of large-scale warfare, against all enemies both foreign and domestic, then the people manning their virtual battle stations are also major players in our defense capabilities. The AP reports that the Defense Department has officially created a new medal recognizing “extraordinary achievement” in cyber-security related to a military operation after 9/11/2001 — marking the first creation of a new military accolade since the Bronze Star in 1944. The times, they are a-changin’:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday that for the first time the Pentagon is creating a medal that can be awarded to troops who have a direct impact on combat operations, but do it from afar.

“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.”

The work they do “does contribute to the success of combat operations, particularly when they remove the enemy from the field of battle, even if those actions are physically removed from the fight,” he said. …

A recognition of the evolving 21st Century warfare, the medal will be considered a bit higher in ranking than the Bronze Star, but is lower than the Silver Star, defense officials said.

Iiinteresting. On the one hand, I absolutely agree that cyber-security is of growing and paramount importance in this day and age, and we’re fending off hostile forces on that front on the regular; but does the honor deserve the assigned ranking when it’s meant for those who have never actually set foot on the battlefield? Discuss.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

but does the honor deserve the assigned ranking when it’s meant for those who have never actually set foot on the battlefield? Discuss.

No. Where’s the risk?

rbj on February 13, 2013 at 5:26 PM

for Courageous Hacker Restraint?

/next they’ll have a medal for whomever comes up with a way to remove a 4th Carrier from service.

rayra on February 13, 2013 at 5:26 PM

Wouldn’t a citation be more appropriate?

Bmore on February 13, 2013 at 5:29 PM

It’s only logical in today’s “everybody gets a trophy society”

tbrickert on February 13, 2013 at 5:30 PM

Stand by for the day when a Medal of Honor is presented for an action in Cyber War.

NavyMustang on February 13, 2013 at 5:33 PM

I absolutely agree that cyber-security is of growing and paramount importance in this day and age, and we’re fending off hostile forces on that front on the regular; but does the honor deserve the assigned ranking when it’s meant for those who have never actually set foot on the battlefield

Should drone pilots get commendations?

The world has changed. The way we wage war has evolved. In very literal terms, a person sitting in Omaha can end more or save as many lives as person with boots on the ground.

As our tools of war get more “cyber”, the skills and effort in defending and implementing those tools increase.

And it’s the type of work that’s very, very easy to take home with you.

I’ve got no problem with it.

segasagez on February 13, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Medals for video games?

portlandon on February 13, 2013 at 5:35 PM

I would assume someone being awarded this medal would have a highly classified security clearance. Is that something that should be advertised?

CTSherman on February 13, 2013 at 5:37 PM

Don’t we already have a whole bunch of medals and awards that are assigned for non-combat positions, achievements, distinguished services, superior service, etc. What’s wrong with another one?

lester on February 13, 2013 at 5:38 PM

So a person that never risks his life on the battlefield can get a medal but those shot at Fort Hood by an Islamic terrorist can’t get a purple heart?

Mark1971 on February 13, 2013 at 5:38 PM

Medals for video games?

portlandon on February 13, 2013 at 5:35 PM

Maybe the medal will be shaped like a joystick.

Mark1971 on February 13, 2013 at 5:39 PM

No comment except on the photo: these are the people leading the defense of your nation.

Barky’s looking at Panetta like he’s a Labrador.

CorporatePiggy on February 13, 2013 at 5:40 PM

The White House has been turning up the volume on emphasizing the clutch importance of bettering our cyber defenses, particularly via Departing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Pentagon’s latest initiative to beef up their cyber security force, and the effort to get some real bipartisan legislation going again got some real estate in last night’s State of the Union:

America must also face the rapidly growing threat from cyber attacks.

Let’s cut our nukes, hamper our military efficiency with social experiments and fuel an increasing number of ships with expensive bio-fuels though.

I just wish the shitstorm would get going because I’m tired of waiting for the inevitable.

arnold ziffel on February 13, 2013 at 5:40 PM

Shouldn’t it be a virtual award?

HotAirian on February 13, 2013 at 5:41 PM

No comment except on the photo: these are the people leading the defense of your nation.

Barky’s looking at Panetta like he’s a Labrador.

CorporatePiggy on February 13, 2013 at 5:40 PM

With hunger or desire?

arnold ziffel on February 13, 2013 at 5:41 PM

I hear a couple of them are dating Manti Te’o's girlfriend.

…well, somebody had to say it…

Knott Buyinit on February 13, 2013 at 5:42 PM

“I regret that I have but one snarkset to give for my country”

“Give me unauthorized entry into your computer system, or give me death”

Paul-Cincy on February 13, 2013 at 5:45 PM

So do they have a civilian equivalent for those who do really well at Halo 4?

sharrukin on February 13, 2013 at 5:48 PM

Everybody gets ice cream!

Pork-Chop on February 13, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Awesome. I’ve been waiting 15 years for my medal for actually beating Ninja Gaiden.

I’m sure you already know my home address, Pentagon. I’d like a plaque and a medal if it’s possible.

Good Solid B-Plus on February 13, 2013 at 5:53 PM

They dumbed down even “Heroism”. It sure isn’t what it used to be.

What a stupid world Obama fosters, from the very top on down.

Just look at the HA trolls. Their brains are the size of those of gnats.

Schadenfreude on February 13, 2013 at 5:56 PM

Since kids spend huge swaths of time playing computer games, at least there are scads of cyber-combatants currently in intense training.

marybel on February 13, 2013 at 5:57 PM

On the one hand, I absolutely agree that cyber-security is of growing and paramount importance in this day and age, and we’re fending off hostile forces on that front on the regular; but does the honor deserve the assigned ranking when it’s meant for those who have never actually set foot on the battlefield? Discuss.

Speaking as a military retiree currently working in the same zip code as those dealing with cyber-security…..

I don’t have a problem with the medal. I have problems with the precedence of being higher than a Bronze Star. The fact of the matter is that the newest battlefield is virtual but that doesn’t mean physical courage and service should be of less importance than those sucking down big gulps at Fort Meade.

At least they didn’t strike two medals here like they did with GWOT. One for those actually in harm’s way and one that is nothing more than a participation ribbon. But who knows, maybe that is next. A cyber-warfare medal for the support folk behind the cyber warriors.

Happy Nomad on February 13, 2013 at 5:58 PM

Is it a cyber (digital) medal? Can you download and/or print it out?
/////

Sir Napsalot on February 13, 2013 at 6:04 PM

“Give me unauthorized entry into your computer system, or give me death”

Paul-Cincy on February 13, 2013 at 5:45 PM

Actually, I want a black-ops organization to do cyber-attacks against our enemies. The kind of ops that don’t get participation medals but anonymous stars on a wall at Fort Meade. Military or civilian, doesn’t matter. Your recognition is making it to the wall for bringing down Iran’s power grid or something.

Happy Nomad on February 13, 2013 at 6:07 PM

Also,

Does Obama get twice as many ‘medals’, since he’s the CinC and personally gives the ‘kill’ nod?

The nobel peace prize winner might not have room left for all the medals he’s collecting.

Sir Napsalot on February 13, 2013 at 6:09 PM

No comment except on the photo: these are the people leading the defense of your nation.

Barky’s looking at Panetta like he’s a Labrador.

CorporatePiggy on February 13, 2013 at 5:40 PM

With hunger or desire?

arnold ziffel on February 13, 2013 at 5:41 PM

There’s a spider down here that does both – to its own.

CorporatePiggy on February 13, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Valor and heroics are usually associated with personal sacrifice and personal danger. I guess in this case it would mean skipping a bathroom break to make a phone call or send an email… What’s the point in that, anyway, since nobody even remotely connected to this nation’s defense is required or even expected take any notice of those communiques?

Is Obama gonna do a Jack Kennedy and design the medals, himself? A potrait of himself in full roman emperor regalia striking his now-famous Il Duce pose, no doubt…

ROCnPhilly on February 13, 2013 at 6:29 PM

Perspective and where you stand on the issue based on where you are sitting.

Is the missile officer (sorry, not in the Navy, so not using the right term) who fires a Tomahawk worthy of a combat ribbon?

An infantry troop might consider what the helicopter pilot does to be of much less “direct action” than what the ground pounder does.

Combat Infantry Badge was limited to trained infantry who are engaged in direct combat. Even though a truck driver with an M4 might be fighting along side the infantryman in some ferocious firefight, if he was not in combat arms, specifically infantry, he didn’t get the badge.

The AF pilot dropping a guided bomb from high above, virtually without risk, over the skies of Afghanistan, is that person of less value or less deserving of the appropriate reward?

Tanker and transport pilots get awards and never fire a shot.

Standoff recce folks (not talking about U-2 and SR-71 flyers) used to get Air Medals for X number of missions. Later that was adjusted to awarding Air Achievement Medals, so as to not cheapen the Air Medal. Big difference between being at risk and just being there.

I think this gets to Happy Nomad‘s point. The medal’s order of precedence needs to be in the right place. I don’t begrudge the medal, put it should not rate higher than those that were earned for duty, service and deeds that put the recipient at risk. It also boils down to the criteria for which they award the medal.

If it rates high in precedence, then the criteria must make its award rare. A lower precedence would allow for lesser accomplishments. Kind of like comparing an Air Force Cross to a Distinguished Flying Cross to an Air Medal to an Air Achievement Medal. The number awarded, criteria of difficulty and precedence must all track.

Grinch on February 13, 2013 at 6:32 PM

A Silver Star with two snaps up for avoiding a paper cut and carpal tunnel syndrome?

Way back when…a soldier with a good enlistment could walk away with a Good Conduct medal, a National Defense Service medal, an expeditionary or occupation medal and maybe an Army Commendation medal. Three required nothing more than just being there. The others required a bit of effort, minimal in most cases for the Good Conduct Medal…the Arcom took a bit more.

Every once in a while a first-termer could walk away with a Meritorious Service Medal…rare, but it happened…and no combat involved for any of them.

But, there were promotion points in these…as for those earned in combat, and if you wanted to make rank, or stick around for more than a single enlistment, it made sense to try a little bit harder.

Combat decorations were and are different. And should be.

Somewhere in the 70′s, and again in the 90′s, the armed forces came up with an Achievement Medal or similar, and some have a local civic action or volunteerism medal…and seems the criteria for getting even the Arcom had changed,m easier to obtain…if you are a first-term enlistee and do not have one of those or better before half your enlistment was up, you weren’t being noticed…or had screwed up royally.

Now, this? For Cyber Warfare? Why not just stick with the various Commendation and Meritorious Service medals.

What next? A Special Sustainment medal for being in the combat support branches? A Maneuver Enhancement Medal for being part of an MP or Quartermaster outfit that helps the troops get deployed on time? A Civil Affairs medal for being civil and not letting your affairs get in the way of work?

Heck, the armed forces could not even spring for a Cold War Service medal…and still refuse to consider one. Can get one of several anti-terrorism medals just for being there…no combat or hazardous duty involved, and various Iraq and Afghan medals for just being there…but the longest war in our history…zip…just a certificate you have to go through channels and ask for…and then have to be considered to receive, if and only if the guys out in St. Louis get around to it. Have a son finishing up his second and apparently final enlistment in the Marines…has three rows of fruit cocktail on his chest and is expecting a couple more as he finishes his hitch. Take a look at General Dempsey or other senior military officer next time they show up in uniform…the medals start right above the collar bone and extend down to mid-breast…and most, other than the top one or two rows, have nothing to designate except for merely being there.

Guess as we march toward our socialist utopia, that old Soviet maxim is taking root. “Everybody is Hero.”

Sort of cheapens it all for every one involved.

coldwarrior on February 13, 2013 at 6:57 PM

Maybe they could just give them a boxed set of Medal Of Honor Warfighter instead?

sharrukin on February 13, 2013 at 7:09 PM

When Obama gets a Nobel Peace Prize for merely getting elected…why not give everybody else a special medal just for being there, too. In real life or virtually. It is the thought that counts.

coldwarrior on February 13, 2013 at 7:13 PM

Used to be quite good at Tomb Raider. Sure would have liked to have been given official recognition of my cyber prowess.

coldwarrior on February 13, 2013 at 7:14 PM

*sigh* Talk about phoning it in……

SailorMark on February 13, 2013 at 7:34 PM

So how many of these is John Kerry going to put himself in for?

Above the Bronze Star? Really? Maybe I should have played more Missile Command at the arcade as a kid… people were always saying that the military was recruiting based on that game.

malclave on February 13, 2013 at 7:34 PM

coldwarrior on February 13, 2013 at 6:57 PM

Take a look at the fruit salad on Generals Petreaus and McChristal. Not one single medal for combat action. Both of them had the Expert Infantry Badge (awarded for tests) – but neither had a Combat Infantry Badge.
McChrystal, in fact, spent his entire career in Special Operations units (Rangers and Special Forces)…and never heard a shot fired in anger (though he did order others into combat). I find that somewhat disturbing.

Solaratov on February 13, 2013 at 8:11 PM

Well, I guess thumb cramps is worth a purple heart then.

Sir Napsalot on February 13, 2013 at 8:13 PM

Solaratov on February 13, 2013 at 8:11 PM

You are correct.

There were and are general officers I admire. My two favorites started out as enlisted. Both had very real direct combat experience in at least two wars…and a number of smaller less significant heated exchanges of political opinion overseas. Both trained all of us to the point of exhaustion and then some, demanded 100% at a minimum…and loathed the idea of putting us in harm’s way. But, if we had to be there, we’d come out of it intact, in unit and in person.

Today’s crop?

Glad my youngest son is finishing up his enlistment in the Marine Corps and is headed home, soon.

Do not want him to remain fodder to enhance somebody else’s political career or electability.

He’s done his part. He owes no one anything.

coldwarrior on February 13, 2013 at 8:21 PM

There are two types of combatants here — the ones waging cyberwarfare (who may be considered the equivalent of spy-catchers or spies — but who have no real exposure to danger) — and those guys who fly drones.

I have my portion of a Meritorious Unit Citation for having done the first at some point in my career — but I certainly do not think I deserve a medal or a big hunking trophy which will be larger than any I have heretofore received. Nobody was shooting at me, and I wasn’t shooting at anyone else. That said, I did prevent things which might have resulted in death to Americans.

Now, you may think that drone crews don’t have problems — but they’ve seen, on camera, the enemy kill Americans, and they have killed the enemy — sometimes in gruesome ways. They’ve watched civilians stray into the path of munitions they’ve launched. A lot of these guys are personally involved in the combat they see — they come off their assignments with PTSD. They KNOW they aren’t in a video game.

If, as the Government claims, the drone over Benghazi was unarmed, you can bet that crew suffered greatly not having the weapons to make a difference as they helplessly watched the action unfold beneath them, their drone feed going nowhere important because the President of the United States was getting ready to visit the Cashman Center in Las Vegas and nobody else had the balls to act.

Now, I can’t imagine that such an award would exceed the honor attaching to a Bronze Star, but I can imagine an award which is a bit more than a Meritorious Unit Citation — quite a bit more.

unclesmrgol on February 14, 2013 at 12:20 AM

Should drone pilots get commendations?

I’m a computer geek and have been playing Flight Simulator for years. Do I deserve this medal?

RandallinHerndon on February 14, 2013 at 8:05 AM

Is the missile officer (sorry, not in the Navy, so not using the right term) who fires a Tomahawk worthy of a combat ribbon?

Grinch on February 13, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Normally the Fire Control Officer is on the warship where that missile is being fired from, so yes, they usually are in a Combat Zone or Theater of Operations.

RandallinHerndon on February 14, 2013 at 8:14 AM

The short answer is no, it should not rate a specific medal. We already have medals for superior performance of duty, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement. Both the NCM and NA can have a V (valor) attached for actions in combat. The equivalent to the MSM in a combat theater is a Bronze Star. If the award is for a direct combat action then the V is attached to the BS. There is no reason a cyber guy or drone pilot could not be awarded one of the superior performance medals that already exist.

As an aside, we’ve got out of control on the medal business. I did 24 years of active duty and was in Lebanon in 83, the Gulf in 91 and OIF in 03 along with a few other smaller hot spots over the years. And, I have a sizable rack of ribbons. But I always felt embarassed when I visited my father in laws house and saw his old uniform from WWII. He had four ribbons one of which was the Purple Heart. Yet he served from 42-45 in some of the most intense combat ever. He made three island assaults in the Marianas, Saipan (wounded there) and Iwo Jima. All were as a Combat Engineer in the thick of the fighting. He ended the war as a Company Commander training up for the invasion of Japan. Now days every Company Commander gets an award for a successful deployment (7 mos) in theater. The Marine Corps hands out far less medals than the other Services, but even we have gone too far.

SoonerMarine on February 14, 2013 at 8:37 AM

This is ludicrous. If they hadn’t cheapened the Commendation and Achievement medals into PCS awards, they would already have something appropriate. Like most here, I don’t so much mind a new award that recognizes our folks who contribute “directly” though not on the front lines. But above a Bronze Star? Insane.

marking the first creation of a new military accolade since the Bronze Star in 1944.

I think that sentence needs different wording. Lots of military “accolades” have been created since 1944. Perhaps this is the first new one for involvement in combat, but I *know* it isn’t the first new medal since 1944.

GWB on February 14, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Don’t we already have a whole bunch of medals and awards that are assigned for non-combat positions, achievements, distinguished services, superior service, etc. What’s wrong with another one?

lester on February 13, 2013 at 5:38 PM

We have it covered with the MSM:

“The Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) is a military award presented to members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguished themselves by outstanding meritorious achievement or service to the United States subsequent to January 16, 1969. The MSM was previously awarded as a decoration for achievement during peacetime; effective 11 September 2001, this decoration also may be bestowed in lieu of the Bronze Star Medal for non-combat meritorious achievement in a designated combat theater.[1] Normally, the acts or services rendered must be comparable to that required for the Legion of Merit but in a duty of lesser, though considerable, responsibility.”

bartonbulletin on February 14, 2013 at 2:15 PM

Dang, I should have stayed in to to 30. I’d have at least two more rows of warrior-dude ribbons by now, even if all I did was rotate offices in USS Building 95.

J.E. Dyer on February 14, 2013 at 3:11 PM