The Washington Post

Administration reinstates awards for top civil servants

The Obama administration is reinstating an awards program for senior level federal executives that went dormant last year.

Members of the Senior Executive Service and their counterparts in scientific fields are eligible for The Presidential Rank Awards. The awards were not given last year because of sequestration budget cuts, much to the consternation of the Senior Executives Association.

Photo/Jared Kofsky

Federal law provides for monetary prizes with the awards — 20 percent of salary for a Meritorious rank award and 35 percent for a Distinguished rank award. Now top senior executives are paid almost $190,000.

In a memorandum to department and agency heads, Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta said nominations for the awards are due June 5. Employees who were nominated last year may be renominated this year. She told officials to “consider the current challenging fiscal conditions…in determining the number of nominations to submit.”

She also said they “must exercise due diligence in reviewing both the background of nominees (including any issues relating to conduct).”

While the awards have provided large monetary prizes, the savings generated by the work of the honored executives also have been sizable.

In a blog article OPM plans to post Tuesday morning, Archuleta says, “Awards are given in recognition of scientific breakthroughs, improvements in the delivery of service to the American people, and work that has or will result in the saving of billions of dollars for taxpayers.”

One previous finalist, she said, “developed and executed a new contracting strategy for purchasing renewable energy at the Department of Defense that is projected to save $20 million annually.”


Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

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