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Undated handout image courtesy of the U.S. Air Force shows a MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft. The U.S. government has authorized the killing of American citizens as part of its controversial drone campaign against al Qaeda even without intelligence that such Americans are actively plotting to attack a U.S. target, according to a Justice Department memo.

HANDOUT/Reuters

The U.S. military said Tuesday it halted production of a new medal for drone- and cyber-warfare, ordering a review after critics called the award an insult to combat veterans.

Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, who received two Purple Hearts and other decorations as a soldier in the Vietnam War, made the decision to put a hold on the new Distinguished Warfare Medal after hearing complaints from veterans, his spokesman, George Little, told a news conference.

"He's heard their concerns. He's heard the concerns of others. And he believes that it's prudent to take into account those concerns and conduct this review."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Hagel asked the military's top officer, General Martin Dempsey, to lead the review of the medal and to look at the ranking of the award compared to other military medals, he said.

The medal, the first force-wide combat award to be created since 1944, ranks high in the hierarchy of American military medals, below the Silver Star but above the Bronze Star for valour, which recognizes courage in battle.

Lawmakers have introduced legislation that would lower the ranking of the new medal, which was designed to recognize the contributions of those who operate unmanned, robotic aircraft or cyber-tools that play an increasingly decisive role in combat.

The backlash over the award on the blogosphere and in Congress has echoed a long-running debate inside the military, particularly the Air Force, about how to adapt to new realities in modern warfare, within a culture shaped by traditions from another era.

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