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Report | June 8, 2016

Medal of Honor Award Process Review: U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer Nominee


We recently completed our review of the circumstances surrounding the recommendation to award the Medal of Honor (MOH) to a U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer for his valorous actions in combat while deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. On two separate occasions, Representative Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA) requested the Secretary of Defense explain why the Secretary of the Army downgraded the nominee's MOH award recommendation to the Silver Star (SS). Specifically, Representative Hunter requested that DoD determine how the Army reached the conclusion to downgrade the nominee's MOH recommendation to a SS; whether the Secretary of the Army has the authority to downgrade a MOH award recommendation; and whether the Army used a U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) investigation to downgrade or justify downgrading of the nominee's MOH award recommendation. Subsequent to Representative Hunter's requests, the Deputy Secretary of Defense specifically requested that the DoD Office of the Inspector General determine whether the nominee's award process deviated from the established valor award process.

We determined the nominee's MOH award recommendation followed the established valor award process and that the Secretary of the Army awarded the nominee the SS in accordance with applicable regulations and policies. The Army properly processed the award recommendation in accordance with established regulations and policies. The review process, specifically the Army's Senior Army Decorations Board (SADB), found that the nominee's valorous actions did not meet the MOH criteria outlined in Army Regulation (AR) 600-8-22, "Military Awards," dated June 24, 2013. By majority vote, the SADB recommended the SS. Department of Defense Manual (DoDM) 1348.33, Volume 1, "Manual of Military Decorations and Awards: General Information, Medal of Honor, and Defense/Joint Decorations and Awards dated November 23, 2010, and AR 600-8-22, identifies the Secretary of the Army as the approval authority for awards below the MOH. In accordance with applicable regulations and policies, the Secretary of the Army is required to forward to the Secretary of Defense only those Medal of Honor award recommendations he personally endorses. The Secretary of the Army is the approval authority for awards below the Medal of Honor. We found no evidence that the Secretary of the Army relied on the CID investigation in his decision to award the nominee the Silver Star. We determined Secretary McHugh acted within his authority when he decided to award the SS.

We found no evidence that anyone directed CID to initiate its investigation of the Noncommissioned Officer, or that anyone in the awards process used the CID report to justify awarding the SS rather than the MOH. CID began its investigation based on a referral from another law enforcement agency. The Secretary of the Army was made aware of CID's investigation just prior to his review of the MOH award recommendation. Although some in the review process considered the results of the CID investigation, we found that the SADB members were not aware of CID's investigation when they reviewed the award recommendation and recommended the SS. Further, we found no evidence that the investigation influenced the Secretary of the Army's decision to award the nominee the SS.  

Finally, our review identified a potential systemic deficiency involving the use of sworn statements obtained during the course of AR 15-6, "Procedures for Investigating Officers and Boards of Officers," investigations to support valorous award recommendations. We also identified a potential discrepancy regarding the suspension of favorable personnel actions for individuals under criminal investigation. We referred both matters to the Army for review.