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Performance & Compensation

Rank Award Process — FY2008

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Senior Executive Service (SES) Members

Each year, since the establishment of the Senior Executive Service (SES), the President has conferred the ranks of Distinguished Executive and Meritorious Executive on a select group of career members of the SES who have provided exceptional service to the American people over an extended period of time. These senior executives are outstanding leaders who consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to public service. Through their personal conduct and results-oriented leadership, they have earned and kept a high degree of public confidence and trust. They have demonstrated their success in balancing the needs and perspectives of customers, stakeholders, and employees with organizational results. Executives from across Government are nominated by their agency heads, evaluated by citizen panels, and designated by the President. The awards are prestigious and unique.

There are two categories of rank awards for the SES. The Distinguished Executive rank is awarded to leaders who achieve extraordinary results. Only 1 percent of the career SES may earn this award. Distinguished Executives receive a lump-sum payment of 35 percent of their rate of annual basic pay, a gold pin, and a framed certificate signed by the President. The Meritorious Executive rank is awarded to leaders for sustained accomplishments. Only 5 percent of SES career members may receive this award, which includes a lump-sum payment of 20 percent of the executive's rate of annual basic pay, a silver pin, and a framed certificate signed by the President. The percentage of career SES members who may receive each award is based on the Governmentwide career SES population as of September 30th of the previous fiscal year.

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Senior Career Employees (SL/ST)

In 2001, the rank award statute was amended to extend eligibility for these prestigious Presidential awards to certain senior career employees who have a sustained record of exceptional professional, technical, and/or scientific achievement recognized on a national or international level. Beginning with awards granted in 2003, the President may confer the ranks of Distinguished Senior Professional and Meritorious Senior Professional on a select group of senior career employees in a manner similar to that for career members of the SES.

As with the SES, this Distinguished rank is awarded for sustained extraordinary accomplishment. Only 1 percent of senior career employees may earn this award, which includes a lump-sum payment of 35 percent of basic salary, a gold pin, and a framed certificate signed by the President. The Meritorious rank is awarded for sustained accomplishment. Only 5 percent of senior career employees may receive this award, which includes a lump-sum payment of 20 percent of basic salary, a silver pin, and a framed certificate signed by the President. The percentage of senior career employees who may receive each award is based on the Governmentwide number of career appointees in OPM-allocated Senior-Level (SL) and Scientific-Professional (ST) positions as of September 30th of the previous fiscal year.

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Eligibility Requirements and Nomination Criteria for Senior Executives

Nominees must meet the following eligibility criteria by the nomination deadline (February 5, 2008):

  • Hold a career appointment in the SES;

  • Be an employee of the nominating agency on the nomination deadline; and

  • Have at least three years of career or career-type Federal civilian service at the SES level. Service does not have to be continuous. Qualifying service may include appointments in the SES, Senior Foreign Service, FBI/DEA SES, Defense Intelligence SES, and other SES equivalent systems. Service under other than career-type appointments (e.g., noncareer, limited, indefinite) or in Senior Level or Scientific-Professional or equivalent positions is not qualifying.

Presidential Rank Awards recognize long term achievement. One strong performance rating may justify a performance bonus but not a Presidential Rank Award. However, three such performance ratings demonstrating consistently high performance may indicate an executive is deserving of nomination for a rank award.

An agency may nominate a reemployed annuitant who meets all eligibility requirements. Also, an Executive Schedule employee who was appointed by the President with Senate Confirmation (PAS) without a break in service from a career SES appointment and chose to remain eligible for rank awards under 5 USC 3392(c) may be nominated, although 5 USC 4509 otherwise precludes a PAS Executive Schedule employee from receiving the award. A part-time, intermittent executive may be nominated but the agency must be prepared to pay the full award. It should not be pro-rated.

You may consider a broad range of factors in exercising discretion to nominate executives for this award, including budgetary limits, Administration policy, Congressional concerns and any public affairs implications. You will need to decide whether an award to any proposed nominee would be in the best interests of the agency and the Government.

A nominee who meets the eligibility requirements but leaves the SES before being selected as a recipient may still receive the reward. The same applies to a nominee who dies after OPM has received the nomination.

An individual who has received either rank award (i.e. Distinguished or Meritorious) may be nominated for the other; however, a senior executive may not receive the same rank award more than once in any 5-year period.

Year Award Received

Year Eligible to Receive the Same Award

2003

2008

2004

2009

2005

2010

SES Nomination Criteria

The law provides the rank of Distinguished Executive is awarded for "sustained extraordinary accomplishment," and the rank of Meritorious Executive for "sustained accomplishment." Presidential Rank Awards are reserved for career senior executives who have a record of achievement that is recognized throughout the agency and/or is acknowledged on a national or international level. In reaching the pinnacle of achievement, rank award recipients will also have inspired their employees and earned their customers' respect. Assess your nominee's performance against the five criteria, emphasizing results-oriented performance.

  • Leading Change: Demonstrated the ability to bring about strategic change, both within and outside the organization, to meet organizational goals. Inherent to this criterion is the ability to establish an organizational vision and to implement it in a continuously changing environment.

  • Leading People: Demonstrated the ability to lead people toward meeting the organization's vision, mission, and goals. Inherent to this criterion is the ability to provide an inclusive workplace that fosters the development of others, facilitates cooperation and teamwork, and supports constructive resolution of conflicts.

  • Results Driven: Demonstrated the ability to meet organizational goals and customer expectations. Inherent to this criterion is the ability to make decisions that produce high-quality results by applying technical knowledge, analyzing problems, and calculating risks.

  • Business Acumen: Has an exceptional record of managing human, financial, and information resources strategically.

  • Building Coalitions: Showed an unusual level of cooperative effort to build coalitions internally and with other Federal agencies, State and local governments, non-profit and private sector organizations, foreign governments, or international organizations to achieve common goals.

SES Nomination Limits

Agencies may nominate up to 9 percent of their career SES appointees for rank awards. There is no prescribed ratio of Distinguished to Meritorious nominations. However, when submitting nominees agencies should keep in mind the statute only permits 1 percent of the career SES population to receive the Distinguished Rank, as compared to 5 percent for the Meritorious Rank.

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Eligibility Requirements and Nomination Criteria for Senior Career Employees

Nominees must meet the following eligibility requirements by the nomination deadline (February 5, 2008):

  • Hoold a career appointment in an OPM-allocated Senior-Level (SL) or Scientific-Professional (ST) position;

  • Be an employee of the nominating agency on the nomination deadline; and.

  • Have at least three years of career or career-type Federal civilian service above GS-15. Service does not have to be continuous. Qualifying service does not include appointments that are time-limited or to positions that are excepted from the competitive service because of their confidential or policy-making character.

Presidential Rank Awards recognize long term achievement. One strong performance rating may justify a performance bonus but not a Presidential Rank Award. However, three such performance ratings demonstrating consistently high performance may indicate an executive is deserving of nomination for a rank award.

You may nominate a reemployed annuitant who holds a career appointment to an OPM-allocated SL or ST position and meets all eligibility requirements. You may also nominate a part-time executive, but in keeping with the prestige of the award, be prepared to pay the full (not pro-rate) percentage of the recipient's annual basic salary. In both cases, carefully consider whether the nomination would be in the Government's best interest, since nominations and awards are limited.

A nominee who meets the eligibility requirements, but leaves the SL or ST position before being selected as a recipient, is eligible to receive the award. The same applies to a nominee who is deceased after we have received the nomination.

A senior career employee can receive the same award only once in any 5-year period. Senior career employees are not required to receive a Meritorious award before receiving a Distinguished award.

Year Award Received

Year Eligible to Receive the Same Award

2003

2008

2004

2009

2005

2010

Senior Career Employee Nomination Criteria

The law provides that the rank of Distinguished Senior Professional is awarded for "sustained extraordinary accomplishment," and the rank of Meritorious Senior Professional for "sustained accomplishment." Presidential Rank Awards are reserved for senior career employees who have a sustained record of professional, technical, and/or scientific achievement that is recognized throughout the agency and is acknowledged on a national or international level. In reaching the pinnacle of achievement, rank award recipients will also have inspired their colleagues and earned their stakeholders' respect. Assess your nominee's performance against each of the following four criteria:

  • Leading Change: Displayed the highest level of creativity, initiative, flexibility, and innovation to produce results that are important to the American people. (Demonstrate how the nominee displayed extraordinary leadership in advancing and influencing the field and agency programs with a quality of work that has consistently brought national or international recognition.)

  • Leading People/Building Coalitions: Demonstrated unusual success in leveraging the capabilities of colleagues to foster innovative thinking and in reconciling conflicting stakeholder interests. Showed an unusual level of cooperative effort with others, including those in Federal agencies, other government jurisdictions, academia, national or international organizations, and the private and non-profit sectors. (Demonstrate how the nominee took the initiative to reach out to stakeholders and involve them in activities affecting them and how the nominee used ingenuity to optimize effectiveness among colleagues and/or team members to achieve the end result.)

  • Results Driven: Has an exceptional record of achieving important results impacting a technical or scientific field, or a major program of the agency. (Provide specific examples of how the nominee developed or advanced original scientific or technical contributions or scholarly research of major significance or relevance to the field. Results are substantially more than incremental improvements over current technology or thinking and must have advanced or even revolutionized the scientific, technical, or professional field.)

  • Stature in Professional Field: Consistently recognized nationally or internationally as a leader or authority in a field or discipline. (Comparing the nominee with others in the field, describe the level and nature of influence the nominee has had on others in or beyond the field or discipline; instances where the nominee is regularly sought as an advisor and consultant on scientific, technical, or professional programs and problems of fundamental interest and extraordinary difficulty which extend well beyond his/her field or discipline; and specific major honors or awards received or publications of works that have had a major impact in the field or discipline.)

Senior Career Employees Nomination Limits

Agencies may nominate up to 9 percent of their senior career employees (SL and ST) for rank awards. There is no prescribed ratio of Distinguished to Meritorious nominations. However, when submitting nominees agencies should keep in mind the statute only permits 1 percent of the career SL/ST population to receive the Distinguished Rank, as compared to 5 percent for the Meritorious Rank.

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Eligibility Requirements and Nomination Criteria for Agencies Exempt from the SES

Several agencies have senior career executives who meet the SES definition at 5 U.S.C. 3132(a)(2), but their positions are placed in the Senior-Level (SL) system because the agency is exempt from SES coverage. These agencies receive Senior-Level (SL) space allocations from OPM for these appointees. These agencies include, but are not limited to:

Export-Import Bank of the United States
Federal Election Commission
Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council
National Security Council
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council

These agencies should use the nomination criteria established for members of the Senior Executive Service when nominating their career senior executives for rank awards. Use the nomination template for senior career employees, but indicate on the template you are using the SES nomination criteria for these nominees. However, these agencies should use the nomination criteria established for senior career employees when nominating employees in the Senior-Level system who do not meet the statutory SES definition.

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Preparing Nomination Packages

Send OPM a cover letter signed by your agency head and an alphabetical list of nominees for each award category (SES and Senior Career Employee) with the required number of nomination folders, as specified below, for each nominee. Include the last four digits of the Social Security number for each nominee on the alphabetical lists. Include in the cover letter the name, phone number, and email address of your agency's Presidential Rank Awards Program coordinator.

Each nomination folder must include a career summary statement that describes the nominee's current position and lists highlights from his/her SES or SL/ST career. This statement will provide review board panel members with the context needed to evaluate the nominee's achievements. Please note this career summary statement is subject to public release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Each nomination folder must also include a justification statement that concisely describes the nominee's career achievements related to each of the Presidential Rank Award criteria. We strongly recommend the writer tailor the nomination in a manner understandable to an outside, lay audience. Defining terms and providing other explanatory information can help clarify for the raters the complexities of Government and enable them to fully appreciate the difficulty of barriers surmounted and the true value of the nominee's contributions.

The justification statement may not exceed three (3) pages in length for SES and senior career employees; longer justifications will be returned. Use no smaller than an 11-point type and at least 0.8 inch margins.

Suggestions

Since Review Board members are private citizens, they will not know the intricacies of your nominee's program responsibilities or even the broad context of Federal Government work. Statements must be clear, organized, and well-written to make it easier for your nominee's achievements to receive the consideration they deserve. We have found that it helps if you:

  • Are well organized. Organize the justification statements in the same order as the criteria. Number the pages of the justification statement (i.e., 1,2,3);

  • Are specific. State actions taken, impact on stakeholders, staffing levels, budget amounts, organization size, results, etc. Include information about customer and employee feedback, as appropriate; and

  • Use commonly understood terms. Avoid acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon-laden terms.

Nomination Folders

Send each nomination in standard letter-size folders, with tabs (second or third cut are preferable). For each Distinguished nominee, provide five (5) folders exactly alike and rubber banded together. For each Meritorious nominee, provide four (4) folders exactly alike and rubber banded together. Specify whether the nomination is for the SES rank award or the Senior Professional rank award. Each folder must include the following:

  1. Label on the Folder Tab

    NAME OF NOMINEE (First, Middle Initial, Last)
    AGENCY NAME
    DISTINGUISHED SES or SP 2008 - or - MERITORIOUS SES or SP 2008

  2. Presidential Rank Awards Program Nomination Template. Each template must be complete and legible. You must check all the boxes that apply to the nominee's current employment status. There is a block for the agency head's signature. If the agency head prefers signing only the cover letter, indicate as such, e.g., "/s/ cover ltr."

  3. Career Summary Statement. Briefly describe the nominee's current position and list highlights as a SES member or SL/ST, including significant honors, awards, etc. Use no more than one half page of text. Please note that the career summary statement is subject to FOIA and may be released if requested.

  4. Justification Statement. Concisely describe the nominee's career achievements for each of the Presidential Rank Award criteria, as described above, in the exact same order as the criteria are listed. Use no more than three pages of text.

You should not include SF-50 or equivalent personnel forms in the nominee's folders. Additionally, do not staple or paper clip any of the pages in the folder. OPM will return folders that do not meet the specified format.

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EVALUATING AGENCY NOMINATIONS

OPM Review

We verify that each nominee meets the eligibility requirements. We also review each nomination package for completeness using these guides:

  • Is there a Presidential Rank Awards Program Nomination Template, and is it signed by the agency head?

  • Is there a Career Summary Statement?

  • Is the justification statement three pages or less? If it is longer, we will ask you to revise and resubmit it.

  • Is there any extraneous material in the folder? If so, please remove it.

  • Are there five folders for each Distinguished nomination and four folders for each Meritorious nomination?

Information contained in the Presidential Rank Awards Nomination Template is entered into the Executive and Schedule C System (ESCS) database. We use the database to verify eligibility and record scores from the Review Board deliberations.

How Review Boards Work

We administer the Presidential Rank Award Review Boards, composed of private citizens. Each Board has three members who individually evaluate and rate the accomplishments described in the justification statement. Each member makes an independent judgment on the cases presented. The nominee's score is the sum of each board member's ratings. There is no appeal of the review board's determinations.

The Review Boards for the Distinguished Rank Awards (D Boards) meet in Washington, DC, usually in March or April. We conduct inquiries on all Distinguished nominees the Review Boards recommend for approval, and pay the costs of these inquiries. Distinguished nominees who do not score high enough to be recommended for approval are referred to a Meritorious Review Board if eligible. Review Boards for Meritorious Rank Awards (M Boards) meet in various locations across the country after the Distinguished Board has met.

On-site Evaluations (Investigation Inquiry Process)

Distinguished nominees the Review Boards recommend for approval are subject to on-site evaluations. On-site evaluations are interviews with persons knowledgeable of the nominee's performance and professional accomplishments. Agency Presidential Rank Awards coordinators will be contacted by OPM's Center for Federal Investigative Services to identify individuals to contact.

The "Eyes Only" Certification

After the Review Boards complete their evaluations and we have the results of inquiry reports, we consolidate the board scores, prepare a ranked list, and establish final cut scores that comply with statutory limitations. The OPM Director sends a letter to the agency heads with a list of the nominees who have successfully completed the selection process and asks agency heads to reconfirm the potential recipients through the "Eyes Only" process.

Agency heads must certify the final nominees are not involved in any situation which would cause the agency head to withdraw the nomination or would cause embarrassment after the awards are announced. Situations that could cause a withdrawal of the nomination might include being the subject of an investigation, conflict of interest, EEO complaint, or adverse legal action. We also ask agencies to consider the potential reaction of employees, customers, and other stakeholders.

Withdrawing a Nomination

You may withdraw a nomination at any time before the President approves the awards.

  • To withdraw a nomination before the agency head's final certification, send us a letter signed by your agency head or designee, asking the nomination be withdrawn. State the nominee's name and the award for which he/she was nominated. No reason is required.

  • To withdraw a nomination at the time of the agency head's final certification (i.e., the Eyes Only" certification), draw a line through the nominee's name on the list, have the agency head initial the withdrawal and sign the list. Then return it to us, along with a cover letter asking that the nomination be withdrawn.

  • Withdrawing a nomination after the agency head's final certification is not expected and should be rare, but may be necessary in extraordinary circumstances. Call the OPM Presidential Rank Award Program Manager at (202) 606-8046, and immediately follow the phone call with a letter signed by the agency head or designee asking that the nomination be withdrawn. State the individual's name and the award for which recommended.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE PRESIDENT

After the "Eyes Only" process is completed, the OPM Director sends the names of the reconfirmed, recommended winners to the President for approval. The President makes final decisions before the end of September. Nominees can not be added or removed from the list once the President has approved.

We will notify the agency head as soon as the White House informs us the President has approved the Rank Award winners. At this time, agencies are authorized to distribute rank award checks and hold internal ceremonies. Public announcement of the award winners is reserved for the President, and we will advise you at that time about appropriate publicity.

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PROCESSING AND PAYING THE AWARDS

Your agency pays for your executives' rank awards. You should consider and plan for awards as part of executive compensation each year. Your agency should anticipate the need to pay winners and budget accordingly.

By mid-September, we will send you a memorandum on Presidential Rank Awards and Aggregate Compensation in the SES, which provides information about payment of the awards. The memo will advise you to take the precaution of having rank award checks drawn and ready for the SES appointees and senior career employees certified on the "Eyes Only" reconfirmation list. This will allow you to pay awards with current fiscal year funds.

In order to capture award payments accurately, use the appropriate Nature of Action Codes (NOAC) for Rank Awards as described in the Guide to Processing Personnel Actions.

Distinguished Rank Award recipients receive 35 percent of their rate of basic pay; Meritorious Rank Award recipients receive 20 percent of their rate of basic pay. 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. Section 5307(d) permits agencies with certified performance appraisal systems for members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) and senior-level (SL) and scientific or professional (ST) employees (senior professionals) to apply a higher annual aggregate limitation on pay for those employees. The higher aggregate limitation on pay is equivalent to the total annual compensation payable to the Vice President under 3 U.S.C. 104. Agencies without certified performance appraisal systems for their SES members or senior professionals must apply an annual aggregate limitation on pay equivalent to the rate for level I of the Executive Schedule. Any portion of a rank award that would cause aggregate compensation in a calendar year to exceed the applicable aggregate limitation on pay is rolled over for payment at the beginning of the following calendar year.

The lump-sum award payment that is paid in the following calendar year is in addition to basic pay. The lump-sum payment is not subject to retirement, health benefits, or life insurance deductions. It is not included in the "high three" average pay computation for retirement benefits or in basic pay for thrift savings plan computation. However, the payment is subject to income tax withholding and also FICA tax withholding if the executive is in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or subject to Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) Offset.

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RECOGNITION CEREMONY AND AWARDS

Each award recipient receives a framed certificate signed by the President. The Distinguished certificate features a gold emblem; the Meritorious certificate features a silver emblem. Each winner receives a Rank Award pin - gold for the Distinguished winners and silver for the Meritorious winners.

We encourage agencies to hold a ceremony honoring award winners; however, public announcement of the award winners is reserved for the President and you may not issue any written statements until OPM has notified you of the official announcement. You are authorized to pay expenses connected with the actual presentation of awards under 5 U.S.C. 4503.

When possible, the President or Vice President will hold a recognition ceremony for the Distinguished and Meritorious Executives and Senior Professionals. We will advise you about any recognition ceremony scheduled by the White House.

WEBSITE RECOGNITION

We will list the names of the Distinguished and Meritorious Rank Award recipients on our website. A photo display along with a brief description will be posted for Distinguished Rank Award recipients only. Your Distinguished winners will be presented most effectively if you send electronic photos using the following criteria:

  • Professional quality portrait photo of winner only

  • Good quality 75 dpi JPEG file

  • 150 by 225 pixels

  • No office clutter in background

Please send photo and brief summary statement for your Distinguished winner by the end of October.

TENTATIVE TIMELINE
February 5, 2008 Nominations due to OPM.
April Distinguished Executive and Senior Professional Review Boards convene.
May - June - Meritorious Executive and Senior Professional Review Boards convene.
- Background inquiries conducted on Distinguished nominees recommended for approval.
August - "Eyes Only" certification letters to Agency Heads put in final clearance.
- OPM Director forwards Board recommendations to the President.
September Decision made by the President.
October Electronic photographs and summaries of Distinguished Rank Award recipients due to OPM.
Jan - Feb 2009 Agencies notified to pick up certificates and lapel pins from OPM

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STATUTORY BASIS FOR PRESIDENTIAL RANK AWARDS PROGRAM

Title 5, Sec. 4507. Awarding of ranks in the Senior Executive Service

  • For the purpose of this section, "agency", "senior executive", and "career appointee" have the meanings set forth in section 3132(a) of this title.

  • Each agency shall submit annually to the Office [of Personnel Management] recommendations of career appointees in the agency to be awarded the rank of Meritorious Executive or Distinguished Executive. The recommendations may take into account the individual's performance over a period of years. The Office shall review such recommendations and provide to the President recommendations as to which of the agency recommended appointees should receive such rank.

  • During any fiscal year, the President may, subject to subsection (d) of this section, award to any career appointee recommended by the Office the rank of —

    • Meritorious Executive, for sustained accomplishment, or

    • Distinguished Executive, for sustained extraordinary accomplishment.

      A career appointee awarded a rank under paragraph (1) or (2) of this subsection shall not be entitled to be awarded that rank during the following 4 fiscal years.

  • During any fiscal year —

    • the number of career appointees awarded the rank of Meritorious Executive may not exceed 5 percent of the Senior Executive Service; and

    • the number of career appointees awarded the rank of Distinguished Executive may not exceed 1 percent of the Senior Executive Service.

  •  

    • Receipt by a career appointee of the rank of Meritorious Executive entitles such individual to a lump-sum payment of an amount equal to 20 percent of annual basic pay, which shall be in addition to the basic pay paid under section 5382 [Establishment and adjustment of rates of pay for the Senior Executive Service] of this title or any award paid under section 5384 [Performance awards in the Senior Executive Service] of this title.

    • Receipt by a career appointee of the rank of Distinguished Executive entitles the individual to a lump-sum payment of an amount equal to 35 percent of annual basic pay, which shall be in addition to the basic pay paid under section 5382 [Establishment and adjustment of rates of pay for the Senior Executive Service] of this title or any award paid under section 5384 [Performance awards in the Senior Executive Service] of this title.

Title 5, Sec. 4507a. Awarding of ranks to other senior career employees

  • For the purpose of this section, the term ``senior career employee'' means an individual appointed to a position classified above GS-15 and paid under section 5376 who is not serving--

    • under a time-limited appointment; or

    • in a position that is excepted from the competitive service because of its confidential or policy-making character.

  • Each agency employing senior career employees shall submit annually to the Office of Personnel Management recommendations of senior career employees in the agency to be awarded the rank of Meritorious Senior Professional or Distinguished Senior Professional, which may be awarded by the President for sustained accomplishment or sustained extraordinary accomplishment, respectively.

  • The recommendations shall be made, reviewed, and awarded under the same terms and conditions (to the extent determined by the Office of Personnel Management) that apply to rank awards for members of the Senior Executive Service under section 4507.

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