White House to SES: No Presidential Rank Awards bonus money in 2013

Wednesday - 6/12/2013, 2:24pm EDT

The White House is suspending paying any bonuses for the Presidential Rank Awards for 2013.

An administration official confirmed the decision, saying because of the tight budgets, handing out tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses isn't sensible.

"The President is committed to recognizing excellence. However, in light of the reduced budgetary resources, expending funds on employee performance awards at this time would in many circumstances not be the most effective way to protect agency mission to the extent practicable," the official said in an email statement. "Thus, while the President does not intend to issue any Presidential Rank Awards this year, we are focused on finding means to acknowledge excellence in non-monetary ways."

Despite the decision to suspend the awards, the Office of Personnel Management will continue to accept applications through Friday. On Monday, acting OPM Director Elaine Kaplan sent a note to agencies saying the nominations would be extended because of a lack of participation by agencies.

"Some agencies may have decided not to submit any nominations because they were not aware that Rank Award nominees may also be considered for some alternative non-monetary Presidential recognition," Kaplan wrote.

OPM delayed the opening of nominations until May 17. Kaplan said in a memo that because of tight budgets, agency leaders should carefully consider nominations. She made no mention of not handing out monetary awards.

Congress established the Presidential Rank Awards in 1978 as part of the Senior Executive Service program. The awards recognize senior executives for extraordinary performance. There are two categories: Distinguished Executives receive 35 percent of their annual salary as a bonus. Meritorious Executives receive 20 percent of their annual salary as a bonus.

The Senior Executives Association recognized the 2012 awardees in April for saving a combined $94 billion last year.

In a statement to Federal News Radio, SEA President Carol Bonosaro said the group believes the performance awards are required by law.

"Further, while we understand the concern for both budget and optics during the sequester, it seems rather short sighted to sacrifice a program designed to encourage and reward excellence in government — especially one which is completely justified given both the accomplishments of the awardees and the savings they secure for government," Bonosaro said in the statement. "At such a challenging time, we need the kind of executives exemplified by the Presidential Rank Awards, and we cannot afford yet another action which chips away at the few remaining attractors for service in the career executive corps."

RELATED STORIES:

SESers honored for distinguished service, saving $94B in 2012