Lieutenant generals can now approve the award of the Legion of Merit, an authority that previously was limited to four-star generals, the chief of staff and secretary of the Army.

The Legion of Merit is one of the U. S. military's most prestigious awards, ranking just below the Silver Star, and ahead of the Distinguished Flying Cross. It is one of only two decorations to be issued as neck wear, the other being the Medal of Honor.

The new policy is part of an update to a special directive governing the award of service, achievement and retirement decorations to military personnel assigned to Army headquarters and its field operating agencies and staff support agencies.

The instruction, DA Memo 600-8-22, was issued June 29, just four days after the Army published a major update to AR 600-8-22, the umbrella regulation for military awards.

The memo sets policy and prescribes procedures for the peacetime recognition of soldiers in the ranks of colonel and below with the award of the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal who are assigned to Army headquarters and its major supporting activities.

The administrative assistant to the secretary of the Army is the proponent for the memorandum.

While authorized for award to soldiers of any rank, the Legion of Merit is typically limited to colonels and general officers for exceptional performance in command and senior staff duties, and less frequently to sergeants major in senior leadership positions.

The policy change on lieutenant generals has the practical effect of extending LM approval authority to several O-9s on the Army Secretariat and Army Staff, to include the chief information officer, inspector general, surgeon general, chief of engineers, judge advocate general, chiefs of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, and the deputy chiefs of staff for personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics and modernization.

Headquarters officials who do not have LM approval authority should submit Legion of Merit recommendations to the DA Headquarters Award Board, a panel composed of at least three executive officers to Secretariat and Army Staff principals.

When reviewing LM recommendations for members of the Army Staff, a majority of the board members must be from the Secretariat. When reviewing recommendations for members of the Secretariat, a majority of the voting members must be from the Army Staff.

Officers who have approval authority for the LM, also can approve lesser awards for service, achievement and retirement, as can the major generals serving as chief of legislative liaison, chief of public affairs, chief of chaplains and provost marshal general.

Under the memo, principal officials at Army headquarters, except the sergeant major of the Army, can delegate award authority for the Army Commendation Medal and army Achievement Medal, to members of the Senior Executive Service under their purview.