Star Senior Execs Can Expect Kudos Instead of Cash


Career civil servants who earn top honors from the president won’t receive bonuses for 2013, but the government plans to vet nominees anyway.

The Office of Personnel Management notified agencies on Thursday that it would begin screening nominees for the 2013 Presidential Rank Awards or some kind of “alternative non-monetary presidential recognition.” In other words, a pat on the back.

The White House announced earlier in June that it was canceling the annual awards program this year because of budget woes. Since 1978, the awards have honored top feds in diverse fields across government; winners receive a one-time bonus between 20 percent and 35 percent of the employee’s salary.

Still, OPM directed agencies to submit nominations earlier this year, and will conduct what’s become an extensive vetting process. President Obama may have decided not to dole out cash awards for 2013 honorees because of the sequester, but OPM is required by law to administer the program. “OPM is currently reviewing proposed nominations for the Presidential Rank Awards, and, consistent with the process that is spelled out in the statute, we will forward those nominations to the president for his consideration,” said an agency spokeswoman.

Agencies must first send their nominations to OPM before the White House ultimately selects the winners.

“OPM is smart to maintain the process required by statute, and it does keep their options open in the event there’s a change of mind,” said Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, which hosts and helps fund, along with corporate support, an annual soiree for award winners. “Of course, the president can choose not to give the awards, though SEA believes there are sound reasons for bestowing awards,” Bonosaro said.

SEA estimated that on the whole the 2012 honorees saved the government more than $94 billion. Their accomplishments included assisting Japanese victims of a nuclear plant meltdown, designing mobile battlefield medical tools, running an interagency strike force to combat Medicare fraud, and leading policy changes to implement the revolutionary V-chip in television receivers.

OPM also reminded agencies that they have to foot the bill for any costs associated with screening nominees. The vetting process includes a criminal background check “to determine no serial killers have been nominated,” Bonosaro quipped, and an investigation of the nominee’s stated accomplishments. Bonosaro estimated that it costs agencies roughly $1,000 per nomination, and said chief human capital officers have had many questions about paying for the cost of the vetting process at a time when winners aren’t receiving bonuses.

Acting OPM Director Elaine Kaplan’s brief June 27 memo also asked agencies for something else: “Please contact OPM if you have any suggestions on alternative non-monetary recognition.”

(Image via RTimages/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.