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Top senior executives honored at soiree

Federal executives gathered Thursday night in Washington to honor the government's top senior executives with the nation's highest award for civil servants.

Sixty-two members of the Senior Executive Service received the highest honor of the Presidential Rank Award, the Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive, at a black-tie dinner at the State Department. Alberto R. Gonzales, counsel to President Bush, was the guest speaker at the event, which was sponsored by the Senior Executives Association.

NASA boasted the most award winners, with seven career executives from the agency receiving top honors, while six Energy Department employees took home awards. Senior management officials at federal agencies nominate executives for the awards, while panels of private citizens choose the winners. The panels' selections then go to the president for his approval. The award is limited to only 1 percent of the approximately 6,000 career members of the Senior Executive Service.

The award carries with it a cash grant amounting to 35 percent of salary.

Guests observed a moment of silence for Bryan Jack, a 2001 recipient of a Presidential Rank Award. Jack was killed on Sept. 11 when terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. Jack, who was a passenger on the plane, worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

According to the Senior Executives Association, the 2001 winners have saved the government $76.2 billion. For example, W. Michael Hawes, deputy associate administrator for space development at NASA, saved the agency $9 billion in part by cutting costs associated with the Space Station Freedom Program. James Owendoff, principal deputy assistant secretary for environment management at the Energy Department, saved $4 billion with his accelerated cleanup of a former nuclear weapons production facility. And Blaise Durante, deputy assistant secretary for management policy and program integration at the Air Force, saved the agency $30 billion with a cost-cutting acquisition reform plan.

Bush administration officials attending the event included NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James.

For a complete list of winners of the 2001 Presidential Rank Award, click here.