State Department’s 2009 Presidential Rank Awards and Awesome Curiosity

The July/August issue of State Magazine includes a list of the State Department’s Presidential Distinguished Rank Awardees for 2009 (see p.5):

A quick note on the awardees: Bill Brownfield was chief of mission to Venezuela prior to spending the last three years in Colombia; Bill Burns, was in Moscow prior to becoming “P;” Jeffrey Feltman was in Lebanon prior to becoming A/S for Near East Asia; Maura Harty was A/S for Consular Affairs from 2002 until she retired in February 2008; James Jeffrey was Deputy NSA and chief of mission to Turkey prior to his current assignment in Baghdad;  Joseph Mussomeli was in Cambodia prior to Kabul; Frank Ricciardone was in Egypt and the Institute of Peace prior to Kabul, William B. Wood was in Kabul from 2007-2009 (according to OPM, William B. Wood was also a meritorious rank awardee in 2005). Nancy Powell was in Nepal prior to becoming Director General of the Foreign Service in August 2009.

But no Ryan Crocker, who was previously in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, or Anne Patterson, who was previously in Colombia, INL and spend the last three years of her life in Pakistan; no John Negroponte either.

Curious, we went and look up the names of the previous Presidentiall Distinguished Rank awardees… 

  • Linda S. Taglialatela (Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Human Resources)


  •  Richard L. Greene



Presidential Rank Award Winners – Meritorious

I think I said “WOW”! when I saw the previous 4-year list.  If there is a separate list for Foreign Service folks awarded the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award during the past years, we have been unable to find it in the OPM website or anywhere else in the interwebs.

From State Mag:

Among the winners of the 2009 Presidential Rank Award were several current and former Department of State officials, including Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs John R. Byerly, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, Deputy Legal Advisor Jonathan B. Schwartz and Maura Harty, who retired as assistant secretary for Consular Affairs. 

Other winners included two Bureau of Human Resources officials, Director General Nancy Powell and Office of Resource Management Director Philippe Lussier, and Foreign Service Institute Director Dr. Ruth Whiteside. The award winners provided exceptional service over an extended period and were nominated by their agency heads, evaluated by citizen panels and designated by the President, according to the Senior Executives Association. The awards were presented in May by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said she was proud to play a small role in recognizing these individuals. “No way could we make any progress without your dedicated efforts,” she said.

Secretary Clinton highlighted how Schwartz did the “first-rate legal work” that led to Libya’s offer of a $2.7 billion settlement to compensate survivors of the 270 people killed by Libya’s bombing of PanAm Flight 103 in 1988. She also praised Feltman for his coordination of the evacuation from Lebanon of 15,000 Americans in the wake of Israel’s 2006 invasion. During the evacuation, “he did one difficult assignment after another,” she said. Byerly chaired negotiation of the Air Transport Agreement with the European Union. The agreement encompasses 60 percent of global civil aviation traffic and is expected to yield up to 26 million new passengers and $9 billion in economic growth.

Byerly and Schwartz were the two Civil Service winners among the 10 Department employees who won the Distinguished Rank award (see below). Others received the Meritorious Rank award. Winners of the Distinguished Rank receive an award equal to 35 percent of their annual basic pay, while Meritorious Rank executives receive an award equal to 20 percent of their annual basic pay.

Patricia Kushlis
of WhirledView has an excellent question — What does it take to qualify for a Presidential Rank Award?  Read more– The 2007 Passport Fiasco, Maura Harty and State’s 2009 Presidential Rank Awards.

As part of our learning process, we went to the Googles to look this up. Here is what we found from OPM:


Each year since the establishment of the Senior Executive Service (SES) in 1978, 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.


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.


Nominees must meet the following eligibility criteria by the nomination deadline (January 16, 2009):

  • 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 or intermittent executive may be nominated but the agency must be prepared to pay the full award. It should not be pro-rated.
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.

Read more here.

Interesting, no? I think I now know where I wanna work when I grow up.