Today, Congressman John T. Salazar announced the inclusion of language in the National Defense Authorization Act directing the Secretary of Defense to study the creation of a military honors database.
"Having a readily accessible and public database will not only give the tools to law enforcement to prosecute fraudulent claims, but will properly recognize those who have been honored for serving their nation," said Congressman Salazar, who served in the U.S. Army and is a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.
Last year, Congressman Salazar introduced bi-partisan legislation to create a database containing the names and citations of individuals who have been awarded the Medal of Honor or any other medal authorized by the United States Congress. The Military Valor Roll of Honor Act of 2007, H.R. 3769, requires the Department of Defense to establish a searchable database containing the names and citations of members of the Armed Forces who have been awarded our nations highest military honors. Currently no comprehensive database exists for these records. Over 60 members have joined Congressman Salazar in his efforts in the House and Senator Ken Salazar has authored identical legislation in the Senate.
"My father was proud of his military service, and when I ran for office I pledged to myself that I would work every day to honor his memory and the memory of all of our nations veterans for their service to our country," added Salazar.
While copies of these original records exist (for Army and Air Force Awards), many remain in storage at the National Archives and are filed by command, number, and date. Each record usually contains the names and citations of a dozen or more recipients, but no index exists to enable a search by name. For this reason a family member or researcher is required to request a citation by those criteria, which are usually unknown to them, or to pay a researcher to sort through tens of thousands of pages. Even when this information is known, records often have to be requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a process that can take a year or more before the individual receives the requested documents. Awards to members of the Navy and Marine Corps are preserved on nearly half-a-million index cards housed at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., where access to the general public is extremely limited.
Complete text of Congressman Salazar's language in the National Defense Authorization Act follows:
Searchable Military Decorations Database
"The committee notes that there have been a number of examples of individuals in recent years who have fraudulently claimed to have been awarded the Medal of Honor or other decorations of valor. The committee believes that the frequency of such incidents could be reduced and the prestige of all military valor decorations preserved if the general public was afforded access to a searchable database listing those individuals who have been awarded decorations for valor.
"The committee directs the Secretary of Defense to study the potential for establishing a searchable database listing individuals who have been awarded military medals for valor. The Secretary shall consider the cost of the database, the administrative challenges in assembling the database, the implications for the privacy of the individuals listed in the database, and the options for the general public to gain access to the database. The Secretary shall also consider the feasibility of listing recipients of multiple valor decorations in the database, but shall, at a minimum, report his findings regarding feasibility of a database that only includes recipients of the Medal of Honor. The Secretary shall report his findings and recommendations to the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on Armed Services by March 31, 2009."