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Career Achievement and Retirement Recognition Awards

Each year, the Department of State retires about 600 Foreign Service and Civil Service employees and hundreds more LE employees.  To ensure all employees are recognized for their dedication and professionalism and to help Bureaus plan for their employees' retirements, the following updated guidelines explain eligibility for various retirement awards and how they are processed and delivered.

Retirement awards for American Civil Service and Foreign Service Employees

--25 Years or More of Service
- All American Foreign and Civil Service employees who have 25 years or more of service with the U.S. Government should receive:

  • "The Secretary's Career Achievement Award"
  • "The Department of State Career Flag Award"
  • "The 'Expanding Universe' Department of State Career
    Commemoration Award"

--Less Than 25 Years of Service - All American Foreign Service and Civil Service retirees with less than 25 years of service are to receive: 

  • "The Department of State Retirement Recognition Award"
  • "The 'Expanding Universe' Department of State Career
    Commemoration Award"

Retirement awards for Locally Employed Staff

--25 or More Years of Service
:

  • "The Secretary's Career Achievement Award"
  • (And, if determined by the Embassy's Awards Committee) "The Ambassador's Retirement Recognition Award" and/or a flag flown at the Embassy.

--Less than 25 years of Service:

  • "The Ambassador's Retirement Recognition Award"

Initiating the Retirement Awards Process

There is no formal nominating or approval process for any of these retirement awards.  To receive an award.

American employees must submit a Form DS-5079 (see 'FORMS') with their retirement applications:

  • Form 5079 requires that employees provide notes for the citation, which is limited to five lines and 50 words.
  • All citations must be approved by S/ES.  A list of approved citations is included below.

HR/RET will verify the employee's eligibility for the awards and provide the completed Form DS-5079 to Bureau awards officers for processing. 

LE Staff
awards must be sent directly from post to the Bureau Awards Coordinator (not HR/RET).  Retiring LE Staff receiving the Secretary's Career Achievement Award may also receive the Ambassador's Retirement Recognition Award at post discretion.  Posts may order the Ambassador's Retirement Recognition Award for LE Staff who have already retired at their discretion. 

Delivery of Awards


Each Bureau is responsible for initiating, funding, packaging and delivering the "The Secretary's Career Achievement Award" or "The Department of State Retirement Recognition Award" to their employees, either domestically or overseas. 

The Bureau of Human Resources is responsible for funding "The Department of State Career Flag Award" and "The 'Expanding Universe' Department of State Career Commemoration Award;" HR/RET arranges to have them delivered by a contractor to the retiring employee's address of record.

Awards for Retirement Ceremonies


Previously, Bureaus and Embassies have asked to have "The Department of State Career Flag Award" and "The 'Expanding Universe' Department of State Career Commemoration Award" delivered in time for retirement ceremonies overseas or in the United States.  Because an employee's official retirement date is a moving target and many retirement ceremonies occur weeks or even months before the official retirement date, it has been very difficult for HR/RET to accommodate these requests.  As a result, HR/RET will only be able to meet requests for delivery of awards for retirement ceremonies in certain limited circumstances:  if we have received the employee's retirement documents and the DS 5079 forms, and the Bureau/Embassy requesting this service has sent an e-mail request at least 90 days before the planned retirement ceremony.

Bureaus/embassies that want to request this exceptional service should send an e-mail to RETService@state.gov with the subject line:  "Request for Awards for Retirement Ceremony."  The requests must include the full name of the retiree, the date of the retirement and the date of the retirement ceremony, the specific awards requested, the name and phone number of the Bureau/Embassy point of contact, and the address where the awards for the ceremony should be sent. HR/RET will notify the requesting Bureau/Embassy if it is unable to meet individual requests.

Types of Retirement Awards
 

"The Secretary's Career Achievement Award" is the centerpiece of the Department's retirement recognition program for retiring employees with 25 years or more of U.S. Government and/or military service who have performed with dedication and distinction (3 FAM 4829).  This certificate includes a citation related to the employee's service and is signed by the Secretary.  Per 3 FAM 4829.1, LES with 25 years of service and over are also eligible for the Secretary's Career Achievement Award (note that medals are no longer provided).
 
Posts/Bureaus requesting the Secretary's Career Achievement Award should follow closely S/S guidance on permissible citations (no more than five lines/50 words and content per guidance).   

"The Department of State Career Flag Award." All Foreign Service and Civil Service employees with 25 years of more of service also receive this award.  It consists of a 3 x 5 foot flag of the United States that has been flown at the Department in honor of their service. The flag is delivered in a clear Lucite display case.

"The Department of State Retirement Recognition Award" is a certificate signed by the Director General and delivered in an embossed leatherette folder. This certificate of recognition contains standard language and does not require an individual citation.

"The 'Expanding Universe' Department of State Career Commemoration Award." All U.S. Foreign Service and Civil Service employees eligible to retire, regardless of length of service, are given this award. It consists of a block of crystal with a replica of the Marshall M. Fredericks "Expanding Universe" sculpture laser-etched in the interior.  The sculpture rests on a base of black marble. This statue is familiar to any employee who has visited or worked in the Harry S Truman building. It is intended to symbolize the "vitality, immensity, order and mystery of the universe."

"The Ambassador's Retirement Recognition Award"
is a certificate containing a citation regarding local employees' service to the Embassy and to the United States. It should be presented by the Embassy to LES employees at an event appropriate to the retiring employee.
Please note that there is no other additional recognition from the Department provided with the Ambassador's Retirement Recognition Award. Posts may supplement the certificate with a retirement memento as appropriate. Some posts provide a U.S. and or local flag flown over the Embassy.

Citations for the Secretary's Career Achievement Award

Citations on certificates signed by the Secretary should be simple and elegant and should recognize the individual's achievements in a concise manner.  Citations should be limited to 50 words or less. In addition to securing any other necessary clearances, please ensure S staff clears on the draft text before printing the certificate. S staff clearance can be obtained by emailing the draft text to S_Certificates@state.gov.  Secretary's Career Achievement Award certificates should be printed using Global Publishing Services' Certificates Online service. This will ensure the correct template is used.

Once certificates have been cleared and printed, they should be brought to S/ES-EX, Room 7515, for delivery to the Secretary.

Examples of approved citations:

  • In recognition of his 38 years of U.S. government service and with appreciation for his many contributions to advance the United States' security and counter-terrorism interests.
  • In recognition of her distinguished Foreign Service career from 1990 to 2011 and with appreciation for her many contributions to advance the vital national interests of the United States.
  • In recognition of her distinguished service and dedication to the U.S. government from 1970 to 2009.
  • In recognition of his 27 years of distinguished service in Haiti, Japan, Sudan, Peru, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Washington.
  • In recognition of his distinguished service to the U.S. government from 1968 to 2009 and with appreciation for his extraordinary achievements in Washington, Paris, Bridgetown, Bucharest, Bonn and on temporary assignments to 72 other posts around the world.
  • In recognition of her distinguished career with the Department of State and with appreciation for her extraordinary efforts to promote international stability and economic development as cornerstones of U.S. foreign policy.
  • In recognition of his/her many contributions during 32 years of distinguished service to the U.S. government.
  • For 32 years of U.S. government service performed with dedication and distinction in Washington and overseas.
  • With appreciation for 32 years of outstanding service to his/her country.
  • In recognition of his many outstanding contributions during a distinguished career of diplomatic service from 1977 to 2009.
  • In recognition of his distinguished service to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Department of State in Washington, Moscow, Rabat, La Paz, and Paris and with appreciation for his many contributions to advance the national interests of the United States from 1978 to 2009.
  • In recognition of his 34 years of distinguished service, first as a Publications Officer with the United States Information Agency and finally as Director of the Office of Career Development and Assignments in the Bureau of Human Resources in the Department of State, and with appreciation for his many contributions to advance the U.S. government's policy interests.
  • In recognition of his 34 years of distinguished service in the U.S. Department of State and with appreciation for his contributions to the United States' essential public diplomacy efforts around the world.