The Presidential Rank Awards Are Back

OPM director calls for nominations by June 5, saying last year’s nominees are eligible since no money was given.

Nearly a year after a cost-conscious White House canceled the Presidential Rank Awards, the prestigious tool for federal executive recognition is being reinstated, the Office of Personnel Management announced.

In a memo to all agency heads, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta announced a “call for nominations” for the fiscal 2014 awards, due June 5. “Agency heads should consider the current challenging fiscal conditions and resources needed to meet overall agency mission priorities in determining the number of nominations to submit,” she wrote.

“You may also decide to re-nominate eligible Senior Executives and Senior Professionals that were nominated in fiscal 2013 since no monetary awards were conferred for Presidential Rank Award finalists in fiscal 2013 and therefore none of these nominees are currently subject to the statutory prohibition from receiving the same rank award more than once within a five-year period.”

The Senior Executives Association since last fall has been pressuring the White House to come up with an alternative to the awards and accompanying banquet that have taken place since 1978 but did not occur last year.

“Federal senior executive employees perform valuable services on behalf of the American public and those with the highest level of sustained performance deserve recognition for their contributions,” Archuleta wrote.

Carol A. Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, told Government Executive she was pleased the awards are returning. “The reinstatement of the Presidential Rank Awards is welcome and much needed,” she said in an email. “Deserving executives value the once-in-a-career recognition far more than the monetary award. Suspending the awards for 2013 was a morale buster.”

The SEA, however, remains disappointed in the Obama administration’s treatment of the 2013 Rank Award finalists whose awards were canceled. A letter these finalists received from Archuleta, SEA said in a May 13 release, was not sufficient as the “alternate recognition” SEA had recommended. SEA criticized President Obama for not coming forward to honor the finalists personally. “Greeting and taking a photo with these career executives who are essential to the success of his administration is at least as worthy of the President’s time as pardoning a turkey or welcoming the Miami Heat to the White House,” the SEA statement said.

Hence, barring new White House plans, the association will honor the cancelled finalists at a June 5 reception in the State Department Diplomatic Rooms. “We trust that the heads of their departments and agencies will attend and demonstrate their support for those who support them daily,” the SEA said.

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