In the six years since the Senior Executive Service was created, presidents have awarded only half the $10,000 and $20,000 bonuses they were entitled to give to the government's top managers, according to a study by the staff of Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.).

"We found that senior executives at large agencies have a significantly better change of getting a presidential rank [bonus] than someone at a small agency," Schroeder said in a news release.

The report criticizes the minimal fanfare with which the awards have been given, saying that then-President Jimmy Carter acted as he if were "embarrassed" to give the awards and that during the first years of the Reagan administration "the situation got worse."

"The awards have lost some of their meaning because of the manner in which they have been conferred," said the release.

The Senior Executive Association has been so concerned about the lack of recognition for the award winners that it sponsored a black tie banquet at the State Department this winter to honor them. This year's 32 winners saved the government $500 million, according to Carol Bonosaro, executive director the government's top career employes' organization.

"While we have no doubt that the winners are very distinguished, we wonder indeed whether there might not have been additional executives who could have been included," she said yesterday.

Only one person, Henning E. von Gierke, director of the Biodynamics and Bioengineering Division of the Air Force Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, has received three awards -- two distinguished executive rank awards with $20,000 bonuses and one meritorious executive rank award with $10,000. Distinguished awards may be given to the same employe no more than once in five years.

Von Gierke is described as a world-renowned expert in the effects of vibrations, gravity, shock and noise on the human body. He was one of the first to identify the issue of noise pollution.

James E. Colvard, former deputy chief of naval materiel, received two distinguished awards. He is now special assistant in the Office of Personnel Management.