Star federal executives who together saved the government some $94 billion were honored on Thursday for receiving the Presidential Distinguished Rank Awards for 2012, the smallest number of recipients in recent years.
The annual awards are presented by the president to senior federal managers. The Senior Executives Association Professional Development League recognized 46 winners at a black-tie dinner at the State Department. 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.
The Distinguished Rank Awards numbered 54 in 2012 and 66 in 2011. An additional 78 federal officials received the Meritorious Executive awards for 2012.
Distinguished Rank recipients receive a lump-sum payment equal to 35 percent of their annual basic pay and a framed certificate signed by the president, according to the Office of Personnel Management. The president has honored top feds with rank awards every year since 1978, when the Senior Executive Service was established.
The scheduled keynote speaker for the banquet was Gen. James Clapper, director of national intelligence. Key agency officials expected to attend included acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Robert Perciasepi; Deputy Transportation Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Davis Porcari; Army Undersecretary Joseph Westphal; and departing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.
SEA President Carol A. Bonosaro, the banquet’s master of ceremonies, told Government Executive she was disappointed that the number of winners has shrunk in the current era of federal austerity. She said the list included no one from the intelligence community, which has a process for selecting winners separate from the one that goes through OPM.
That means the celebration includes no award winners from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency, Bonosaro added. “I think these people deserve a parade in their honor every year and the fact that they don’t get recognition they deserve is very frustrating. But add to that not letting the intelligence community in, it’s inexplicable.”
Bonosaro said the hold-up on intelligence agency winners comes from the White House. She also worried the administration was behind schedule in setting in motion the process for selecting the 2013 Distinguished Rank winners. That months-long process usually starts in November, Bonosaro said, and involves agency nominations, OPM vetting, and further review by panels and the White House. There’s also the banquet preparations, she added. “We can’t give a party like this overnight.”
OPM referred queries on the delays to the White House, which did not respond by publication time.
This story has been updated with the total amount of money this year's award winners have helped the government save. It's $94 billion.
Correction: The original version of this article indicated that the Presidential Rank Awards are sponsored by the Senior Executives Association Professional Development League. They are awarded by the president. The article has been updated to correct the error.