Hundreds of senior leaders in government are receiving recognition in this year’s Presidential Rank Awards, considered the most prestigious award for career civil servants.
President Joe Biden named 232 Senior Executive Service (SES), Senior-Level (SL) and Scientific and Professional (ST) members across 31 agencies who will take home an award in recognition of their extensive contributions to public service.
“Public servants are unsung heroes — working to better the lives of families across America,” White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients said Thursday. “They do everything from making sure you get your tax refund, to helping you set up your small business, to keeping us all safe at home. They get things done with grace and skill and first and foremost to serve the American people.”
Like every year, the winners hail from a wide array of agencies and many different disciplines. The work of some of this year’s recipients, for instance, range from research on the disinfection of viral aerosols and detection of viruses at the Environmental Protection Agency, to the design, development and testing of batteries on manned space missions at NASA.
Within the PRA program, there are two categories of awards: the Distinguished Rank Award and the Meritorious Rank Award.
In any given year, about 5% of the entire senior career federal workforce will receive a Meritorious Rank Award. Only 1% earn a Distinguished Rank Award.
The winners also typically receive a cash bonus as part of the award. The Distinguished Rank Award offers a one-time bonus of 35% of the recipient’s base salary. Meritorious Rank Award winners receive a bonus equal to 20% of their base salary.
The annual Presidential Rank Awards program began in 1978 as part of the Civil Service Reform Act. The goal was to recognize the outstanding efforts of career senior leaders in the federal workforce.
The PRA program saw a brief hiatus in 2020 when President Donald Trump canceled the awards for one year due to what he said was economic uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic. For the last few years, the program has been operating virtually.
The Office of Personnel Management helps run the PRA program by developing the criteria for agencies to submit nominations and evaluate the nominees. OPM then sends its recommendations to the president for final selection.
“Every day, tens of thousands of dedicated federal employees are solving the nation’s most pressing challenges and developing new technologies to improve the lives of millions,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said. “The Presidential Rank Awards highlight public servants who exemplify integrity, exceptional leadership and a relentless commitment to the American people. Congratulations to all the awardees. The federal government and the American people are safer and better off thanks to your hard work and dedication.”