Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Biden Administration Brings Back Presidential Rank Awards

The Office of Personnel Management is fielding nominations for the annual awards for senior federal workers, after last year’s iteration of the program was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it would restore the Presidential Rank Awards after last year’s iteration of the program that recognizes and distributes bonuses to executives across the federal government was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last summer, the Trump administration called off the awards program, which highlights the achievements of employees in the Senior Executive Service and other Senior Level positions, citing the need to focus on agencies’ “critical mission” and the economic slowdown that accompanied the pandemic.

The move was criticized by employee groups like the Senior Executives Association, which argued that federal employees’ efforts to serve the public under the strain of a global health crisis was worth the relatively low cost of the bonuses.

The decision to restore the awards program falls in line with President Biden’s campaign promise to value the contributions federal employees make in their service to the American people. In the early days of his administration, he rescinded nearly half a dozen executive orders perceived as anti-union or anti-federal employee, and signed directives protecting the independence of federal scientists and mandating the wearing of masks on federal property during the pandemic.

“The Presidential Rank Awards have a rich history of awarding well-deserving individuals in federal career service,” said White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain, in a statement. “We are pleased that the Office of Personnel Management has made it a priority to bring back these distinguished awards to honor our dedicated civil servants in the federal workforce. The president looks forward to being part of the selection process and lifting up individuals that consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to public service.”

The Office of Personnel Management is fielding nominations for the award program, which was first established as part of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, between now and April 9.

“After a hiatus in 2020, we’re proud to be bringing back this annual recognition of a select group of career members of the Senior Executive Service and senior career employees for exceptional performance,” said acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan. “A Presidential Rank Award is one of the most prestigious awards in the federal career civil service and these awards are critical to recognizing the hard work of dedicated civil servants in the American federal workforce.”