SES Bonus Caps Rising in 2017

Federal employees in the Senior Executive Service will be happy to know that the cap on agencies’ allowed bonus spending is increasing next year.

Employees in the Senior Executive Service (SES) will be happy to know that bonus limits are increasing for FY 2017 to 7.5% of employees’ aggregate salaries. This represents a sizable increase over the previous 4.8% cap from FY 2016.

The new figure comes from a recent memo from acting OPM director Beth Cobert in which she instructs agencies to make a concerted effort to reward and retain more top performing employees by providing substantial monetary awards to the highest performing employees. Cobert effectively is pushing for greater use of pay for performance in the memo, noting that agencies should make greater use of varying award amounts among rating levels, something she notes is a key characteristic of pay for performance systems.

“Agencies are encouraged to support good performance management throughout the year by providing ongoing feedback and promptly and appropriately recognizing excellent achievements,” wrote Cobert. “Agencies should use all authorized categories of awards, as appropriate, to recognize the accomplishments of their executives throughout the year, including time off and individual awards.”

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.