Every year in the State Department there are a multitude of awards an employee is eligible to earn, 124 different awards to be exact. The awards recognize a range of achievements including regular awards, spotlight pieces on people doing humanitarian work, and other notable work. Most offer a cash award in addition to the recognition and many of these awards are somewhat unique and don’t occur very often. For example, the Thomas Jefferson Star is awarded for death, permanent incapacity or disability while serving on official duty overseas. This is an award I avoid trying to earn every year; so far I have been successful in my failure. There is also the Charles E. Cobb, Jr. Award for Initiative and Success in Trade Development awarded every year to an Ambassador who best promotes U.S. trade overseas. There is a $5000 cash award attached this honor.
But for most employees of the State Department, there are four core awards that one can earn regularly for good performance:
Superior Honor Award: In recognition of a special act or service or sustained extraordinary performance covering a period of one year or longer. You are nominated by someone at your post and DC has to clear. This award is worth $150-$2000 depending on the breadth of impact of your work.
Meritorious Honor Award: In recognition of a special act or service or sustained outstanding performance. The only difference here is that your post management (the people sitting on the Awards Committee) can grant this without asking for DC approval. This award is also worth $150-$2000 depending on the breadth of impact of your work.
Franklin Award: Recognizes the achievements of individuals in a variety of areas of importance to the department: performance, customer service, innovation, teamwork, crisis management, and negotiation. You can earn up to four Franklin Awards per year. This award is worth $200-$750 depending on the breadth of impact of your work.
Extra Mile Award: This is by far the most common and easiest to get. This award provides on-the-spot recognition for one-time, short-term efforts of special merit. You can get up to four of these per year. This award is worth $50-$200 depending on the breadth of impact of your work.
In addition to the benefits of the cash compenent, awards tend to help you get promoted faster as well. Promotion review panels will often look to awards as an additional inidicator of your suitability for senior ranks.