Friday, May 10, 2013

Presidential Rank Awards in the "Era of Federal Austerity"

    On April 25th, a black-tie dinner was held at the State Department to recognize the 2012 winners of the Presidential Rank Awards.  Each year, according to guidance from the Office of Personnel Management, the president awards the "ranks of Distinguished Executive and Meritorious Executive on a select group of career senior executives who have provided exceptional service to the American people over an extended period of time."
    In addition to a framed certificate from the president, the two ranks of awards come with a bonus equal to 35% of base pay and 20% of base pay respectively. (The pay freeze currently in place for federal workers did not apply to these awards.) This year, according to Government Executive, the Distinguished Executive awards totaled 54, and Meritorious Executive awards totaled 78.
    While it was noted that together the winners had saved the federal government $94 billion, "SEA [Senior Executives Association] President Carol A. Bonosaro, the banquet’s master of ceremonies, told Government Executive she was disappointed that the number of winners has shrunk in the current era of federal austerity." Bonosaro noted there were no winners from the intelligence agencies because the White House had not responded in time:
Bonosaro said the hold-up on intelligence agency winners comes from the White House. She also worried the administration was behind schedule in setting in motion the process for selecting the 2013 Distinguished Rank winners. That months-long process usually starts in November, Bonosaro said, and involves agency nominations, OPM vetting, and further review by panels and the White House. There’s also the banquet preparations, she added. “We can’t give a party like this overnight.”
    Oddly, given the absence of any winners from the intelligence agencies, the keynote speaker for the evening was General James Clapper, director of national intelligence.  Several other high ranking administration official attended also.  Government Executive inquired of the White House about the delay in declaring intelligence agency winners, but had not received a response by the time the article was published.
    As a footnote:  Although Carol Bonosaro referenced "current era of federal austerity," the austerity did not extend to the framing of the award certificates.  A contract for 135 custom made "mahogany stained poplar wood frames with gold leaf liner" was awarded to Artline Wholesalers.  At $28,464.75, the total contract breaks down to $210.85 per frame.  Although one can carry austerity only so far, a similar frame may be had at Wal-Mart for the everyday low price of $22.97, although it is not clear if glass is included. And no sales tax!  At least for now...

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