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:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


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