The House Armed Services Committee approved on Wednesday a proposal to restrict service secretaries’ ability to revoke valor awards as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill.
The amendment would bar appointees like Army Secretary John McHugh from stripping a combat medal for actions not related to the event for which the award was presented — a sharp departure from current Army regulations.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., wrote and promoted the proposal in response to the Army’s move to strip Maj. Matt Golsteyn’s Silver Star without any formal charges presented. The amendment still needs to survive House-wide and then Senate scrutiny before the massive annual defense bill can be signed into law by President Obama.
“It’ll send a message that if you are on the battlefield, we in the country are going to stand behind you, especially if there are no formal charges,” Hunter told the committee Wednesday night before the vote. “Once you allow for political appointees to take away something of which they know nothing whatsoever, you’re politicizing the awards process.”
While it passed a voice vote, some HASC members opposed the change, which still allows secretaries to revoke valor awards but bars consideration of anything “outside of the actual time period covered by the award.”
Ranking member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., did not question the merits of Golsteyn’s case but rather the idea of making a law because of it.
“As they say in law, ‘tough cases make bad law.’ This does not address just this individual case. This says under no circumstances once a service award is given can it be taken away, which sort of opens up the hypothetical universe,” Smith said to the committee.