Presidential Rank Awards Making a Comeback

After being cancelled last year due to COVID-19, the Presidential Rank Awards are returning in 2021.

The Office of Personnel Management announced today that the Presidential Rank Awards will return after having been cancelled in 2020. The awards recognize exceptional performance by members of the career Senior Executive Service (SES) and Senior Career Employees (SL/ST).

The awards were suspended last year due to the pandemic. According to Bloomberg Law, which obtained a copy of the email announcing the cancellation, the awards were cancelled to save the government time and money amidst the economic challenges brought on by COVID-19.

Along with the announcement about reinstating the awards, OPM issued guidance on submitting nominations. Nominations must be submitted electronically due to the pandemic and are due April 9, 2021.

“The Presidential Rank Awards have a rich history of awarding well-deserved individuals in Federal career service,” said Ronald Klain, White House Chief of Staff. “We are pleased that the Office of Personnel Management has made it a priority to bring back these distinguished awards to honor our dedicated civil servants in the Federal workforce. The President looks forward to being part of the selection process and lifting up individuals that consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to public service.”

Amounts of the awards paid to the federal employees who receive them will vary depending on the award received. Distinguished Rank Award recipients receive 35% of their rate of basic pay; Meritorious Rank Award recipients receive 20% of their rate of basic pay. OPM says that the amount of the award should be based on the last rate of basic pay received as a career member of the SES or SL/ST. The award is paid as a lump-sum payment, and the payment is subject to the applicable annual aggregate limitation on pay under 5 U.S.C. § 5307.

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.