Add a new set of initials, PRB, to the alphabet-soup shorthand Washington uses to identify organizations and functions, from the powerful to the silly.

PRB stands for Performance Review Boards. They are peer group outfits that will rate federal, officials in the new Senior Executive Service.As dispensers of pass-fail grades the boards will have the bureaucratic equivalent of life-or-death power over the 8,000-plus SES members. Done properly the PRBS can be a godsend to government efficiency. If, however, they fail under the thumbs of political bosses, or succumb to the buddy-system, they will be selffulfilling nightmares.

The care feeding of executives of prime importance here. Most of Uncle Sam's top managers work here, surviving political regimes. Odds are you are either a member of the elite club, or work for somebody who is.

If Congress allows executivejudicial-legislative pay to go up this October when rank-and-file workers get a 5.5 percent raise, SES salaries will range from $44,756 to $52,800. With bonuses, top pay could hit $69,600.

In addition to higher pay, SES memberships provides some eyepopping benefits to spur executives and compensate them for the greater risks SES service means. Will be able to compete for two lucrative financial reward packages.

Those rated "fully successful" by the PRBS may also get annual lump sum performance award of up to 20 percent, It is possible that some executives, who please PRBS, could get a bonus every year. That is a big carrot.

In addition, SES members will be eligible for "stipends" which I confused here yesterday with bonuses. The fact is there are bonuses and there are also stipends. Bonuses can come every year. Stipends are limited to 5 percent of the executives (career personnel only) who may get a $10,000 payment once every five years. A higher ranking will entitle a limited number (1 percent) of the SES career work force to a stipend of $20,000.

Unlike other federal workers who are under a use-it-or-lose-it system with their annual leave (vacation) SES members can save theirs and get a cash payout upon retirement.

Bad ratings from the PRBS can result in smaller annual raises for Service members and, if they continue, removal from the SES back into the lower-paying, nonbonus system.

The PRBS have their work cut out for them. While most people wish then well, an equal number hope somebody keeps a sharp eye on the PRBS.