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The Top 5 Most and Least Generous Agencies for Senior Executive Bonuses

The National Science Foundation and the Justice Department doled out the most money in individual performance awards in fiscal 2014.

Some federal agencies were more generous than others when it came to senior executive bonuses in fiscal 2014, according to the latest data from the Office of Personnel Management.

The number of career senior executives receiving a bonus based on their job performance increased by 12.2 percentage points between fiscal years 2013 and 2014 across government, and the average amount of individual performance awards increased $347 during that time. Some agencies reduced how many senior execs received bonuses in fiscal 2014, but increased the amount on average of performance awards handed out (Small Business Administration). Others decreased the individual bonus size on average, spreading the wealth around to more people (U.S. Agency for International Development).

Regardless of how agencies decided to divvy up the performance awards, they all had to comply with the cap the Office of Management and Budget mandated in 2011. Performance awards to those in the Senior Executive Service and senior-level scientific and professional employees can be no more than 5 percent of employees’ aggregate salaries. In addition, “some agencies have internal budget considerations that actually don’t allow them utilize the full amount available under that cap,” Tim Dirks, interim president of the Senior Executives Association, pointed out.

The average award for employees rated “outstanding” on their performance evaluation was $11,765 – an increase of $628 for the same group in fiscal 2013. Those rated “exceeds expectations” and “fully successful” received $8,853 and $8,471 on average in bonus money, respectively.

Dirks said the latest data from OPM “reflects an increase in those areas that is better reflective of the high achievement and the meaningful contributions” of senior executives. “The trend line here looks good,” said Dirks, who added that he hadn’t had a chance to “drill down” into the data. “We’re encouraged by the fact that more executives are being recognized for excellent performance,” he said.

Here are the top five most generous agencies when it came to individual performance awards in fiscal 2014. We’ve defined “most generous” as those agencies that provided bonuses that were more than the average individual award of $10,560 governmentwide. Again, these are averages; some senior executives might have received more money, and others less than the amount listed in parentheses.

  1. National Science Foundation ($15,333)
  2. Justice ($14,600) 
  3. Small Business Administration ($13,894)
  4. Education ($12,800)
  5. Commerce ($12,177)

It’s worth noting that NSF, Justice and Education also made the top five in fiscal 2013.

The agencies that doled out the smallest individual SES performance (less than $10,560) awards in fiscal 2014 were:

  1. State Department ($8,434)
  2. General Services Administration ($8,509)
  3. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ($9,013)
  4. Transportation Department ($9,063)
  5. Veterans Affairs Department ($9,450)