Saturday, December 7, 2013
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon plans to establish a searchable database of military valor awards and medals, hoping for a technological fix to the problem of people getting away with lying about earning military honors.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said details have yet to be worked out, but the intention is to have a digital repository of records on a range of valor awards and medals going back as far in history as possible.
The move is in response to a June 28 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated a law making it a crime to lie about receiving the Medal of Honor and other military decorations. An authoritative database would make it easier to check on award claims and perhaps would deter some who would make false public claims.
The high court ruled that the 2006 Stolen Valor Act infringes upon speech protected by the First Amendment.
Veterans organizations and some in Congress have long argued that the Pentagon needs such a database. As recently as 2009 the Pentagon argued that it would be too costly and could pose Privacy Act problems. It also argued that any government database would be incomplete because a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis destroyed millions of personnel records, including those citing medals and awards, and that even a complete database would do little to reduce the number of false award claims.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., which had expressed sharp disappointment in the Supreme Court ruling, believes that publicizing the false claims of military valor can be an effective deterrent to others.
VFW spokesman Joe Davis said Tuesday that his group welcomes the Pentagon's new approach.
"The cost is minimal compared to the verifiable proof it provides to honorable service members, veterans and all their families," Davis said.