(Carolyn Kaster/AP) (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The Obama administration has suspended a program this year that awards bonuses to senior government executives for  prestigious work, in another sign of austerity.

An administration official said in a statement that while President Obama “is committed to recognizing excellence” among government executives with the annual Presidential Rank Awards,… in light of the reduced budgetary resources, expending funds on employee performance awards at this time would in many circumstances not be the most effective way to protect agency mission to the extent practicable.”

The official said the administration plans to acknowledge excellence in “non-monetary” ways, but was not specific.

Acting Personnel Director Elaine Kaplan sent agencies a request for nominees in May. On Tuesday, she issued a new memo extending the deadline and encouraging agencies to submit nominations because winners would still be considered for alternative recognition.

Congress established the Presidential Rank Awards in 1978. They are one-time bonuses that amount to between 20 and 35 percent of a senior executive salary. Members of the Senior Executive Service can be paid up to $179,700 in salary this year, within a range that starts at just below $120,000.

Candidates are nominated by their agencies; the White House selects the winners from a pool forwarded by the Office of Personnel Management.

The president of the association representing federal senior executives opposes the move to suspend the awards, and says they are required by statute.

“While we understand the concern for both budget and optics during the sequester [budget cuts], it seems rather short sighted to sacrifice a program designed to encourage and reward excellence in government – especially one which is completely justified given both the accomplishments of the awardees and the savings they secure for government,” Carol Bonosaro said in a statement.

“At such a challenging time, we need the kind of executives exemplified by the Presidential Rank Awards, and we cannot afford yet another action which chips away at the few remaining attractors for service in the career executive corps.”

The Senior Executives Association recognized the 2012 awardees in April for saving a combined $94 billion last year. A total of 46 managers were selected last year, down from 75 in 2009.