Rank Awards Nominations Open, and More
A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.
The Office of Personnel Management announced Tuesday that has begun to accept nominations for the Presidential Rank Awards, an annual program to reward top performing career leaders across the federal government.
The awards, which provide winners with cash bonuses, were controversially canceled in 2020 by the Trump administration, who cited the COVID-19 pandemic. When President Biden took office, he reinstated the program, and the 2021 iteration doled out awards to 230 senior executives and leaders from 37 agencies, an increase from the 141 winners in 2019 and 131 in 2018.
In a memo to agency heads, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said nominations would be open from now until March 25, and the White House will choose winners by Sept. 30. This year, agencies will be limited to nominating 9% of their career senior executives and senior leaders, with some caveats.
“By regulations, all agencies, as well as inspectors general nominations made through [the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency], may nominate up to 9% of their career SES and SL/ST populations; however, agency heads should consider their fiscal conditions and resources needed to meet overall agency mission priorities in determining the number of nominations to submit,” Ahuja wrote. “[Agencies] with fewer than 12 SES or SL/ST employees may still nominate one SES and/or SL/ST member respectively.”
In a statement accompanying the announcement, Ahuja said the award program is an important way for the government to show that it values the federal workforce.
“The award recognizes senior executives who see opportunity in every challenge and who inspire and empower the people who work around them,” she said. “We are looking for extraordinary leaders who have displayed an earnest commitment to public service, and I have encouraged agencies to draw on all segments of their executive workforce to nominate every deserving individual for this honor.”
TSP Adjusts How It Confirms Its Investment Strategy
Officials at the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program on Wednesday voted to tweak the process by which it affirms the policy governing how the Thrift Savings Plan invests federal employees’ savings.
The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which administers the TSP, operates many aspects of federal employees’ defined contribution retirement savings program, but issues contracts to two asset management firms to handle the day-to-day investment decisions for four of the five “core” funds. Those firms rely on an investment policy, which is laid out by the TSP board and for decades has been reaffirmed on a quarterly basis.
Sean McCaffrey, the TSP’s chief investment officer, said that the TSP worked with a consultant to examine that longstanding practice, and found that most defined contribution plans, including most public sector plans, update their investment policies on an annual basis, rather than quarterly.
“Changes to the investment policy are extremely rare, as are the changes to the funds’ benchmarks,” McCaffrey said. “The funds are [passively], not actively, managed, and deviations from benchmarks due to investment policies are expected to be small.”
TSP Board Member Bill Jasien asked what staff found regarding why the TSP adopted a quarterly standard for affirming its investment policies.
“Why was it established on a quarterly basis to begin with?” he said. “Was that just the way it’s always been, or is there a specific reason?”
“To my knowledge, it has been this way from the beginning,” McCaffrey said.
Board Member Dana Bilyeu was supportive of the change, noting that examining the investment policy so frequently has led the process to become a rote exercise, rather than a meaningful review.
“Reviewing on a quarterly basis in some ways defeats the purpose of the long-term nature of this fund,” she said. “I fully support moving to an annual review process.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the change. The next time the TSP will reaffirm its investment policy now will be in January 2023.