Although you would never know it from reading the FCC website and FCC public announcements, the 40 or so FCC career employees* who are members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) are eligible for annual bonuses based on their performance under the provisions of 5 USC 5384.
In the 1980s when Mark Fowler was FCC Chairman, these were awarded at a major public ceremony, sometimes complete with a military honor guard. Indeed, I recall that Bob Foosaner, Chief of the Private Radio Bureau (WTB's predecessor) used to brag publicly that he got a big bonus every year! More recently, Broadcasting & Cable magazine somehow got tipped off when the bonuses were given and pressured FCC for a list that it then printed annually. But for several years even this source of information has dried up.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) publishes an annual report about the SES bonuses throughout the government, but FCC is not large enough to get itemized treatment.
SES bonuses come from the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 that, among other things, created the SES. Also in the same legislation was the present 5 USC 4507 that created special awards for the very top of the SES: Presidential Rank Awards:
Distinguished rank recipients receive a lump-sum payment of 35 percent of their basic pay; Meritorious rank recipients receive 20 percent of basic pay. All recipients receive a framed certificate signed by the President.These are usually awarded at a White House ceremony by the President. Thus the granting of such awards to FCC can not be slid under the carpet. Oddly, in the almost 30 years since such awards have been given, only 2 such awards have been given to FCC employees: James McKinney, former Chief of the Broadcast Bureau, and Jerry Vaughan, former Deputy Chief, WTB and a key figure in organizing the first spectrum auctions. By contrast, OPM records show that last year the smaller National Transportation Safety Board gave out one distinguished and one meritorious award, the National Science Foundation**gave out 2 distinguished awards and 3 meritorious awards, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave out 2 distinguished awards and 8 meritorious awards.
So why does FCC have such an odd track record in recognizing the accomplishments of its senior managers? 8th floor readers - I hope you ask this question.
* SES employees come in two flavors: career and non-career. Career employees need not be lifetime civil servants before getting the job, but must be vetted by both the agency and OPM for qualifying professional and management experience. Non-career appointees are basically political appointees. Only career SESers are eligible for bonuses, but FCC in the past decade or so has appointed some people as career SES without any obvious management experience. Apparently the OPM review has become rather loose despite the statutory requirement.
** NSF is smaller than FCC, but due to the nature of its work has more SESers. NRC is somewhat larger than FCC and has many more SESers.