“America’s dedicated public servants are the cornerstone of our democracy,” President Biden wrote in a proclamation for this week. “Every day, millions of public servants at all levels of government do extraordinary things to improve our lives and strengthen our country. During Public Service Appreciation Week, we honor dedicated federal, state, tribal and local public servants who embody the spirit of service and endless possibility that defines America.
As he recognized public employees in general, Biden hailed the accomplishments of the 230 winners of the 2021 competition Presidential Rank Rewards in a virtual ceremony on Monday. They were selected in December but honored by Biden now to kick off this week of recognition.
The Civil Service Reform Act 1978 created the awards in two categories for members of the Senior Executive Service. Other senior leaders were included later. The categories are Recipients of Distinguished Rank and Recipients of Meritorious Rank. Only 1% of top executives can receive the honor, “for sustained extraordinary achievement,” which includes a cash award of 35% of their base salary. No more than 5% of senior executives may receive the Meritorious Award, “Sustained Achievement”, and its cash award of 20% of base salary.
Also celebrated this week are the 44 finalists, including some teams, for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medalsdubbed the “Sammies” and hosted by the Partnership for Public Service, a good government group that focuses on federal employees and agencies.
The two rewards programs each claim fame.
“A presidential rank award is one of the most prestigious awards in the career federal public service,” says the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The Sammies are “affectionately referred to as the ‘Oscars’ of government service,” explains the partnership.
There were no 2020 rank awards because former President Donald Trump rescinded them. Unlike Biden, Trump’s relationship with the federal workforce was frosty. Workers did not agree to be included in his “draining the swamp” rhetoric and attempts to cut their pay.
Biden, as he reaffirmed on Monday and as his policies demonstrate, is a big fan of federal workers. Recalling his message to career officials shortly before his inauguration, Biden said, “I told them we were a team. A team. An America. And I thought so….
“It was an honor for me to reinstate these awards last year after the previous administration made the decision to rescind them,” he added. “Because these awards are not limited to individual recognition. They are a reminder to all of us – to everyone – of the extraordinary capacity, creativity, diversity and dedication of our federal workforce and a reminder – a reminder of… all the work you do means so much.
This year’s winners include, according to OPM, “a Department of Commerce employee who led significant and critical improvements to physical and IT infrastructure; a Department of Homeland Security official who was instrumental in building the first-ever risk-based passenger screening system – TSA PreCheck – which now has over 10 million registered travelers…and a member of the Bureau of Homeland Security. Inspector General of Health and Social Services who helped develop a strong [anti-fraud] network … resulting in thousands of criminal and civil lawsuits over the past five years, as well as more than $19 billion in fines, penalties and restitutions.
Similarly, the partnership said the achievements of the 2022 Sammies finalists include “coordinating housing and services for Afghan refugees following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan – the largest refugee resettlement in modern U.S. history.” ; successfully restoring the United States Capitol after the January 6 insurrection in preparation for the January 20 inauguration; and spearheading efforts to create disability education programs that have reached 300,000 children worldwide.
Finalists will be celebrated at a reception on Thursday, and winners will be congratulated at a gala at the Kennedy Center in September.
“This year’s Sammies finalists show the tremendous scale and impact of federal workers – at home and abroad. With the many challenges facing our country and the global community, we should take pride and comfort in knowing that dedicated public servants – our friends and neighbors – are working tirelessly to serve the public and make our world a better place,” said Max Stier. , the president and CEO of the partnership. “These and all federal workers deserve recognition and praise, and we gladly take this opportunity to honor them.”