President Biden Just Gave Federal Employees a Big ‘Thank You’
He presented the presidential rank awards in conjunction with Public Service Recognition Week.
President Biden presented the premier awards for the career civil service to 230 winners from 37 federal agencies on Monday.
The Presidential Rank Awards, first established by the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, go to career federal employees for their outstanding work. The most recent winners, announced in December after a year hiatus, are all members of the Senior Executive Service, Senior-Level and Scientific and Professional corps.
“It was my honor to reestablish these awards last year after the previous administration made the decision to cancel them,” said the president. “These awards are about more than individual recognition. They’re a reminder to all of us, everyone, of the extraordinary capacity, creativity, diversity and dedication of our federal workforce.”
Speaking directly to the career civil service, Biden said: “Over the last 15 months you’ve helped us deliver so much to the American people,” such as the getting Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, delivering economic relief checks, caring for veterans, implementing the infrastructure package and working to restore the public’s faith in government and democracy. He gave a big “thank you” to them as well as their families.
During the event, Kiran Ahuja, director of the Office of Personnel Management, thanked the president for making the federal workforce a top priority. That is one of the three pillars of the president’s management agenda.
“When I look back on the incredible work that I’ve been part of for the past couple of years. I have to say I’m amazed. I’m proud,” said Diana Espinosa, one of the winners, who works at the Health and Human Services Department’s Health Resources and Services Administration, during the event. “I’m still a little exhausted and I just never imagined someone like me who is a first generation American, the first generation of my family to go to college would be sharing the stage with the president of the United States.”
The winners, who attended the event virtually, are from the following categories: distinguished executive winners; meritorious executive winners; distinguished senior professional winners; and meritorious senior professional winners.
Government Executive reported in June 2020 that the Trump administration canceled the awards for 2020 in order to focus on agencies’ “critical missions” and economic recession due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Distinguished rank recipients “are recognized for sustained extraordinary accomplishment and receive a cash award of 35% of their base salary. Only 1% of the career [Senior Executive Service or Senior-Level/Scientific-Professional corps] may receive this rank,” says OPM’s website. The meritorious rank recipients “are recognized for sustained accomplishment and receive a cash award of 20% of their base salary. No more than 5% of career [Senior Executive Service or Senior-Level/Scientific-Professional] members may receive this award.”
Biden’s presentation of the awards comes during Public Service Recognition Week.
In recognition of the week, the Partnership for Public Service hosted an event on Monday morning to celebrate public service and discuss trust in government, which was the subject of a report it released in March with Freedman Consulting.
A survey, which the report was based on, found that only four in 10 people trust the federal government to do what’s right, but Americans have a more favorable view when asked specifically about the people and institutions that make up the bureaucracy.
“For decades now the American people have heard about so-called ‘Washington bureaucrats gone rogue.’ That rhetoric is corrosive,” said Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, at the event. “You can understand why trust in government isn’t where it used to be and people hear it all the time. That noise may be out of our control, but we can counter it with amazing stories of public servants getting the job done,” such as through the Partnership’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (“Sammies.”) The finalists for that award were announced on Sunday.
Young added that OMB is working to rebuild trust in government through improving government customer service and investing in the federal workforce.