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Twenty-Four Senior Executives Win 2014 Presidential Distinguished Rank Awards

After being canceled in 2013, the nation’s highest award for civil service returns to honor government's best.

The number of senior executives receiving the nation’s highest award for civil service continues to shrink, according to the latest list of winners.

Twenty-four top civil servants will be honored at a black-tie banquet on Thursday for receiving the 2014 Presidential Distinguished Rank Award. The White House awarded 2014 Distinguished and Meritorious Rank Awards to a total of 113 senior executives, whose accomplishments range from developing a hurricane protection system for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to overseeing the government’s legal strategy in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation.

There were 46 Distinguished Rank winners in 2012, the last year the prizes were handed out, 54 top winners in 2011, and 66 in 2010. In May 2014, the White House reinstated the Presidential Rank Awards after canceling them in 2013 – the first time that has happened since the program was created in the late 1970s. The White House cited budget cuts and furloughs caused by sequestration and the need to belt-tighten across government as the reason for scrapping the awards that year, a move the Senior Executives Association denounced as a morale buster.  

Distinguished Rank honorees receive a monetary award equivalent to 35 percent of their annual basic pay, and Meritorious Rank recipients receive 20 percent of their rate of annual basic pay. All recipients receive a framed certificate signed by the president. 

Among the 113 Distinguished and Meritorious award recipients, NASA boasted the most honorees, with 19 employees. The Defense Department’s Office of the Secretary as well as the Air Force, Army and Navy netted several awards.

Only 1 percent of the SES is eligible to receive the rank of Distinguished Executive and 5 percent of the corps is eligible to receive the rank of Meritorious Executive. Winners of either the Distinguished or Meritorious award cannot receive the same rank award more than once in five years. However, since the 2013 finalists did not receive awards, they were eligible for re-nomination in fiscal 2014.

The 2014 winners have saved the government more than $32 billion, according to the Senior Executives Association, which hosts the dinner at the State Department every year.

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