The Top 5 Most and Least Generous Agencies for Senior Executive Bonuses

Some federal agencies were more generous than others when it came to senior executive bonuses in fiscal 2015, according to the latest data from the Office of Personnel Management.

The number of career senior executives receiving a bonus based on their job performance increased by 2.8 percentage points between fiscal years 2014 and 2015 across government, and the average amount of individual performance awards increased $198 during that time. Some agencies reduced how many senior execs received bonuses in fiscal 2015, but increased the average amount of performance awards handed out (NASA). Others decreased the individual bonus size on average, spreading the wealth around to more people (National Science Foundation).

Regardless of how agencies decided to divvy up the performance awards, they all had to comply with the cap the Office of Management and Budget mandated in 2011, which remained in effect for fiscal 2015. Performance awards to those in the Senior Executive Service and senior-level scientific and professional employees could not be more than 5 percent of employees’ aggregate salaries.

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However, the aggregate spending cap on agency performance awards for those in the SES as well as other senior-level career positions rose to 7.5 percent at the start of fiscal 2017 to reflect job performance during fiscal 2016. That increase is part of President Obama’s December 2015 executive order aimed at streamlining SES hiring, improving the corps’ development and making adjustments to pay to help recruit and retain talented leaders.

The average award for employees rated “outstanding” on their performance evaluation was $11,944 in fiscal 2015 – an increase of $226 for the same group in fiscal 2014. Those rated “exceeds expectations” and “fully successful” received $9,074 and $8,348 on average in fiscal 2015 bonus money, respectively. The fiscal 2015 report included data on 6,378 career senior executives compared to 6,267 career senior executives in fiscal 2014.

Here are the top five most generous agencies when it came to individual performance awards for career senior executives in fiscal 2015. We’ve defined “most generous” as those agencies that provided the biggest average bonuses (all were more than the average individual award of $10,742 governmentwide). Again, these are averages; some senior executives might have received more money, and others less than the amount listed in parentheses.

  1. Justice Department ($14,748)
  2. Treasury ($13,123) 
  3. U.S. Agency for International Development ($12,266)
  4. Education ($12,120)
  5. Commerce ($11,901)

It’s worth noting that Justice, Education and Commerce also made the top five in fiscal 2014.

The agencies that doled out the smallest individual SES performance (less than $10,742) awards in fiscal 2015 were:

  1. General Services Administration ($8,823)
  2. Transportation Department ($9,030)
  3. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ($9,316)
  4. Homeland Security ($9,951)
  5. State ($9,970)

GSA, Transportation, and the NRC also made the bottom five in fiscal 2014.

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