Leadership

Presidential awards return after a pandemic pause

Top-level federal employees will once again be lauded and monetarily recognized for exceptional service in 2021, as the Office of Personnel Management announced March 3 that the White House would resume the Presidential Rank Awards after their 2020 cancellation.

“The Presidential Rank Awards have a rich history of awarding well-deserved individuals in federal career service,” said Ronald Klain, White House chief of staff, in a news release.

“We are pleased that the Office of Personnel Management has made it a priority to bring back these distinguished awards to honor our dedicated civil servants in the federal workforce. The president looks forward to being part of the selection process and lifting up individuals that consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry and a relentless commitment to public service.”

The Presidential Rank Awards have been in existence since the creation of the Senior Executive Service in 1978 and are meant to reward SES and senior career employees who demonstrate exemplary service.

The Distinguished Executive award may be granted to no more than 1 percent of SES employees and comes with a 35 percent of annual salary award for the year it is awarded. No more than 5 percent of SES employees may receive the Meritorious Executive award, which comes with a 20 percent of annual salary award.

For SL/ST employees, the Distinguished Senior Professional is granted to no more than 1 percent of such employees and comes with a 35 percent of annual salary award, while the Meritorious Senior Professional award may be granted to no more than 5 percent of that workforce and comes with a 20 percent of salary award.

OPM initially called for nominations for the 2020 awards in February of that year, but decided to cancel the awards a few months later over economic concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The awards were canceled once before in 2013 due to budget sequestration, though President Barack Obama did offer non-financial recognition in its place.

“These leaders often take pay cuts to serve in government. The Presidential Rank Awards provide a modest bonus and necessary recognition to send the message to both federal leaders and taxpayers that the work of government leaders is valued and important. Last year’s cancellation of the Presidential Rank Awards was a devastating blow to the morale of federal leaders who have sacrificed their health and safety throughout the pandemic,” said Senior Executives Association interim President Bob Corsi in a statement.

“We appreciate the Biden – Harris administration for bringing back this celebration of federal leaders and look forward to working together to recognize their excellence.”

Agencies have until April 9 to submit nominations for the awards, and President Joe Biden will make a final decision on awardees no later than Sept. 30.

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