Order Code RS20884
Updated March 31, 2004
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
A Guide to Major Congressional and
Barbara Salazar Torreon
Information Research Specialist
Information Research Division
This report is designed to help congressional offices obtain information about
major awards given by Congress and the President. It lists details about the
establishment, criteria, selection process, and presentation of each of the major
presidential and congressional awards: Congressional Award, Congressional Gold
Medal, Medal of Honor, Presidential Citizens Medal, and Presidential Medal of
Freedom. Brief entries are provided for additional awards made by the President
including two new military medals for service in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT):
the GWOT Expeditionary Medal and the GWOT Service Medal. Contact information
is provided for the organization responsible for making the award and for more data
about an award. References to CRS products on awards are also given. This report will
be updated as necessary.
Congressional Award. The Congressional Award Program was established in
1979 to promote initiative, achievement, and excellence among youths age 14 to 23.
Award recipients have completed a self-designed program of challenging but achievable
goals in four program areas: voluntary service, personal development, physical fitness,
and expedition/exploration. There is no limit on the number of Congressional Awards;
it is a noncompetitive, individual achievement.
Program participants can work toward a Congressional Award Certificate or Medal.
In either category there are three achievement levels: gold, silver, and bronze. Minimum
requirements must be met regarding the number of hours devoted to each of the four
program areas, total hours worked toward the award, and for the duration of the
participant’s efforts. Senators and Representatives present the awards at local, city, or
state ceremonies. Gold medal recipients are recognized each year at the Congressional
Award Gold Ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
The Congressional Award was originally authorized in P.L. 96-114, which set up the
Congressional Award Foundation to manage the Award program, and was reauthorized
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
in 1999 by P.L. 106-63. Funds for the program are received through charitable
contributions. Three awards are associated with the Congressional Award. The
Leadership Award is presented by Congress to individuals in recognition of their
extraordinary contributions to the nation’s youth, particularly for efforts related to the
Congressional Award Program. At its annual gala, the Congressional Award Foundation
presents the Horizon Award to individuals to recognize their contributions to expanding
opportunities for young people, either through their actions or by the example set by their
life’s successes. In 2000, the Congressional Award Act was amended by P.L. 106-533,
to establish a Congressional Recognition for Excellence in Arts Education. This act
established a nine-member congressional board to recognize schools that promote
excellence in arts education. The foundation may be contacted as follows:
Congressional Award Foundation
P.O. Box 77440
Washington, DC 20013
Tel: (202) 226-0130; Fax: (202) 226-0131
To request a brochure: 1-888-80-AWARD
Congressional Gold Medal. The Congressional Gold Medal is considered “the
nation’s highest civilian award and the most distinguished award” given by the U.S.
Congress. It may be given to recognize a lifetime contribution or a singular achievement.
No statutory provisions govern the award; the medal is awarded irregularly, when merited.
Legislation authorizing each medal must be passed by Congress and signed by the
President. Each gold medal is individually designed and struck by the U.S. Mint.
Although only one gold medal is made, in most cases, legislation also provides for the
production and sale of duplicate bronze medals.
The Congressional Gold Medal was initially awarded to military leaders. The first
medal, authorized in 1776, was given to George Washington. Following the establishment
of new military awards, notably the Medal of Honor, the Congressional Gold Medal was
used to recognize achievements in many fields, including world and space exploration,
science, medicine, arts, entertainment, and humanitarian and public service.
Congressional Gold Medals have been awarded to individuals, groups of individuals,
foreign citizens, and to one organization, the American Red Cross.
Additional information on the Congressional Gold Medal, including a list of
recipients, is provided in CRS Report RL30076, Congressional Gold Medals, 1776-2003.
Congressional Gold Medal legislation is under the jurisdiction of the House of
Representatives Committee on Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary
Policy, Technology, and Economic Growth and the Senate Committee on Banking,
Housing, and Urban Affairs. For additional information, contact the committees:
Committee on Financial Services
Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy, Technology, and Economic Growth
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: (202) 226-0473
Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-7391
Medal of Honor. This award, the nation’s highest military honor, is presented by
the President “in the name of Congress,” and for that reason is sometimes referred to as
the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The Medal of Honor was established by Congress during the Civil War to recognize
soldiers who had distinguished themselves by their gallantry in action. It is the nation’s
highest military honor, awarded for acts of personal bravery or self-sacrifice that are
above and beyond the call of duty. Recommendations for the Medal of Honor are
generally made by the military commander or others on the scene at the time of the act.
These recommendations are reviewed by the Department of Defense (DOD), which
makes the final determination on awards. In addition to the prestige associated with the
Medal of Honor, recipients receive additional small courtesies and benefits, including a
$1,000 monthly pension and access to certain military base privileges.
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs 1979 publication, Medal of Honor
Recipients, 1863-1978, lists the names and citations of award for recipients. This data is
updated through the Somalian Action in 1993 in the privately published book, United
States of America’s Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients and Their Official
Citations (Columbia Heights, MN: Highland House II, 1994). A detailed history, current
procedures for making the award, and a complete list of privileges afforded to Medal of
Honor recipients are provided in CRS Report 95-519, Medal of Honor: History and
Issues. Award recipients and citations since 1979 are listed in CRS Report RL30011,
Medal of Honor Recipients: 1979-2003. Additional information is available from
Congressional Medal of Honor Society
40 Patriots Point Road
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
Tel: (843) 884-8862; Fax: (843) 884-1471
Additional Congressional Awards and Medals. Two awards are given at the
discretion of individual Members. The U.S. Senate Productivity Award recognizes the
achievements of organizations in productivity, customer service, or other areas depending
on the criteria adopted by the Senator. Each Senator may award one per year. The Medal
of Merit may be awarded by Members of Congress to recognize the achievements of
constituents as they see fit. Both awards are funded privately and have been used by only
a few Members.
Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is
considered the highest civilian award of the United States government. President Truman
first awarded the Medal of Freedom to reward war-connected acts or services during
World War II. It was later re-established by President Kennedy in Executive Order 11085
of February 22, 1963, to recognize persons who have made especially meritorious
contributions to the security or national interests of the United States; to world peace; or
to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. There are two degrees of the
Medal, the higher being the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction.
Honorees are selected solely by the President, either acting on his own initiative or
based on recommendations made to him. As such, recipients tend to reflect the personal
and political interests of the President. The accomplishments of past recipients have been
in wide-ranging fields, including public service, journalism, business, sports, and
entertainment. The award is presented by the President, generally at a White House
ceremony, and may be awarded posthumously.
Lists of Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients are available in several books,
such as the annual Time Almanac (Boston, Information Please) and The Presidential
Medal of Freedom (Washington, Congressional Quarterly, 1996).
Presidential Citizens Medal. In Executive Order 11494 of November 13, 1969,
President Nixon established the Presidential Citizens Medal to recognize U.S. citizens
who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or fellow citizens. It
is generally considered the second highest civilian award of our government. The
Presidential Citizens Medal is bestowed at the sole discretion of the President and is
usually presented by him. Past recipients were recognized for their contributions in a
variety of areas, including human rights, the civil rights movement, national security,
space exploration, religion, government service, and the environment. The Medal may
be awarded posthumously. To make a nomination for either the Presidential Medal of
Freedom or the Presidential Citizens Medal, a letter detailing the accomplishments of the
nominee should be sent to the following address:
Executive Office of the President
The White House
ATTN: Executive Clerk’s Office
Washington, DC 20502
Tel: (202) 456-2226; Fax: (202) 456-2569
Global War on Terrorism Medals. In Executive Order 13289 of March 12,
2003, President George W. Bush established two military medals for service in the Global
War on Terrorism (GWOT). Specific eligibility for the medals will be established by
DOD award policy. Future authorization for these medals will be considered by the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff if the war expands.
The GWOT Expeditionary Medal will recognize servicemen who
participated on or after September 11, 2001, to combat terrorism and
limited to those deployed are part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The GWOT Service Medal will recognize service in military operations
to combat terrorism on or after September 11, 2001, and is limited to
Operation Noble Eagle and to those service members who provide
support to Operation Enduring Freedom from outside the area of
eligibility designated for the GWOT expeditionary medal.
Copy of E.O. 13289 from the White House website at
DOD Press release with links to photos of these two medals at
Additional Awards and Medals. Other awards presented by the President
include are as follows:
Enrico Fermi Award recognizing contributions in the field of nuclear
energy (Department of Energy);
“E” and “E Star” Awards recognizing contributions to export expansion
efforts (Department of Commerce);
Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recognizing organizations for
their achievements in quality and business performance (National
Institute of Standards and Technology);
Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
(National Science Foundation);
Presidential Rank Award and President’s Award for Distinguished
Federal Civilian Service (Office of Personnel Management); and
President’s Environmental Youth Award (Environmental Protection
In addition, special awards may be established to grant presidential recognition to
persons or organizations for whom other categories of awards are not appropriate. For
additional information, see Awards, Honors, and Prizes (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale
Group. Annual) under “Executive Office of the President.”
Numerous other awards are authorized and may be presented by the President.
Major medals are summarized in Table 1.
Table 1. Presidential Medals
Award or Medal
Congressional Space Medal Administrator of NASA
300 E St. S.W.
Washington, DC 20546-0001
(202) 358-0000; Fax (202) 358-3251
Awarded to astronauts whose particular
efforts and contributions to the welfare
of the nation and mankind have been
Recommendations are made by the
administrator of NASA to the President,
who makes the award.
National Medal of Science
National Medal of Science Committee
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Room 1225
Arlington, VA 22230
Awarded to individuals whose
accumulated work has had a particularly
significant impact on the present state of
the physical, biological, mathematical,
engineering, or social and behavioral
sciences or that is deemed likely to
strongly influence the future
development of scientific thought.
National Medal of
National Medal of Technology
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20230
Awarded to individuals, teams, or
companies for accomplishments in the
commercialization, and management of
technology, as evidenced by the
establishment of new or significantly
improved products, processes, or
National Security Medal
National Security Council
Old Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20506
Recognizes exceptionally meritorious
service performed in a position of high
responsibility or an act of valor requiring
personal courage of a high degree and
complete disregard of personal safety.
Presidential Medal of Valor U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
for Public Safety Officers
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Awarded to public safety officers judged
to have shown extraordinary valor above
and beyond the call of duty in the
exercise of their official duties.
Young American Medal for Young American Medals Committee
Office of Justice Programs
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, DC 20531
Recognizes individuals exhibiting
exceptional courage, extraordinary
decision making, presence of mind, and
unusual swiftness of action, regardless of
their own personal safety, to save a
person whose life was in actual
Young American Medal for
Recognizes individuals who have
achieved outstanding or unusual
recognition for character and service.
Sources: Congressional liaison offices of various agencies and the Internet.