Almost all Department of Defense civilian performance awards are prohibited during sequestration under guidance issued by the Department of Defense (DoD).

In a memo to the military services and DoD components, F.E. Vollrath Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness and Force Management, said the restrictions will apply to all DoD performance awards programs, with limited exceptions, “for purposes of equity and fairness.”

The DoD supplementary guidance on performance awards follows on the OMB memorandum (April 4, 2013) that prohibited agencies from issuing discretionary monetary awards (unless legally required) from sequestered accounts during the sequestration period. Discretionary monetary awards include annual performance awards, group awards, and special act cash awards. 

The restrictions apply to civilian employees covered by provisions of Title 5 U.S.C., regardless of funding, and in sections 1601-1614 of Title 10 U.S.C (Intelligence employees). Also covered are: civilian faculty members at certain DoD schools, foreign national employees eligible for monetary awards, employees supporting Non-Appropriated Fund (NAF) pay systems, and Physicians and Dental Pay Plan employees.

For NAF employees funded from nonappropriated funds are not covered in these restrictions, but their award amounts are limited as defined in the guidance.

The restrictions do not apply to Quality Step Increases (QSIs) and related awards granted under the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System and other DoD alternative personnel, systems. Also excluded are travel savings incentives, foreign language awards, recruitment, relocation and retention incentives, student loan repayments, and time-off awards. But, the guidance advises components to use them” only on a highly limited basis and in circumstances where necessary and critical to maintaining the mission. Spending on QSIs and recruitment, relocation, and retention is limited to the FY2010 level.

Awards approved before February 27, 2013 are not covered by these restrictions.

The DoD guidance does encourage the use of “non-monetary options to recognize performance and contributions to missions” and to “reward hard work.” Time-off awards are also permitted under the guidance, but managers are encouraged to use them only on a limited basis and to avoid increasing their use to make up for cash award restrictions.