White House Reminded of Pledge to Find a Presidential Rank Award Alternative

Senior execs group suggests inexpensive ways the administration could honor star performers.

A professional association representing top federal managers on Thursday reminded the White House that it has pledged to find a non-monetary alternative to a program rewarding high-ranking federal employees who go above and beyond in their jobs.

Specifically, the Obama administration should grant executives who would have earned the Presidential Rank Award this year a meeting and photo opportunity with President Obama and a certificate or letter signed by the president, the Senior Executives Association said. The Office of Personnel Management should list the names of the would-be winners, and should allow agencies to have their own ceremonies celebrating the exceptional performers, SEA said. Finally, the group would like assurances from the White House that the awards program will continue once the across-the-board budget cuts from sequestration end, and that this year’s nominees would be eligible to receive monetary recognition once the program resumes.

Administration officials in June revealed that they were canceling the longstanding annual awards program due to the tight budget situation. Presidential Rank Award recipients typically receive a one-time bonus ranging from 20 percent to 35 percent of their salary.

The Office of Personnel Management still collected nominations for the honor, however, and an Obama administration official said in June that the White House is “focused on finding means to acknowledge excellence in non-monetary ways.”

An administration official on Thursday reiterated the White House’s dedication to senior executives, but did not offer any details on what an alternative awards program might look like.  

“The administration remains committed to rewarding excellence in civil service,” the official said in an email. “We appreciate the recommendations from the Senior Executives Association and will take their input into consideration as we work to recognize the extraordinary contributions our senior executives make to serving the public.”

SEA encouraged the administration to make good on its promises, noting that the end of fiscal 2013 -- when President Obama would normally sign-off on the award winners -- is less than two weeks away.

“Implementing the association’s recommendations would make clear that the president understands the importance of the career executive service to meeting the administration’s program and policy agenda and values the corps’ significant contributions to effectively managing the executive branch,” the executives association stated.

If the White House does find a way to acknowledge this year’s nominees, then SEA will host its annual black-tie dinner for the winners in the State Department’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms, and will invite President Obama. The group has been hosting the banquet annually since 1986; the most recent event honored the 124 rank award recipients for 2012, the smallest pool of honorees in recent years. 

(Image via Chatchawan/