on Apr 26th, 2010
| 195 comments
The debate about the Postal Service’s future is heating up and Pushing the Envelope is interested in your views. Last week the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security held a hearing on the Future of the Postal Service. The week before there was a hearing in the House on the Postal Service’s financial crisis and future viability, and on April 12, the Government Accountability Office issued a report laying out the strategies and options to maintain the Postal Service’s viability. Some of the strategies under discussion include: • Ending Saturday delivery. • Reducing the size of the workforce. • Making postal employees pay the same share of health and life insurance premiums that other federal employees pay. • Generating revenue through new products. • Allowing the Postal Service more pricing freedom. • Restructuring the Postal Service’s network of mail processing facilities. • Moving retail services from Post Offices to alternative access options. One item that is generating a great deal of discussion is whether the large payments the Postal Service must make for retiree health benefits should be restructured. One option is to give back some of the excess pension funding and allow the Postal Service to use these funds for other purposes. In January, the Office of Inspector General for the Postal Service issued a report that found the Postal Service had been overcharged $75 billion for its pension obligations from 1971 to 2009 because of an inequitable method of calculating the size of those obligations. Adding to this inequity is the fact that the Postal Service is currently required to fund 100 percent of its retiree health and pension obligations. Very few in private industry do this, and the rest of the federal government’s pension funding level is only 41 percent. In addition, the OIG believes that the forecast of the Postal Service’s future retiree health care costs is too high. Fixing these issues could save the Postal Service $7 billion a year. What do you think? Which strategies will be most useful to the Postal Service? Should the mix of strategies include cutting delivery service?This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
on Jan 11th, 2010
| 7 comments
Those of us helping on the Office of Inspector General blog had so much fun last year we thought we would make the top 10 stories an annual event. We’ve provided the top 10 postal stories for 2009. Tell us about any stories we missed and add whatever comments you think appropriate. In particular, we would like to get your input on the top story, so take a minute and vote in the poll below.
And now in reverse order . . . our top 10:
- Electric vehicles spark interest — The Postal Service prequalified suppliers in case it requests proposals for the electric conversion of long-life vehicles (LLVs), and a House bill was introduced that would begin the process of testing and deploying 20,000 electric-drive delivery vehicles.
- Sales, Sales, Sales —The Postal Service used its pricing freedom to hold a sale during the traditionally low-volume summer months.
- Retirement incentives fail to motivate — The Postal Service offered financial incentives for early retirements, but fewer employees took up the offer than expected.
- Full-service Intelligent Mail launches — Full-Service Intelligent Mail prices became available in November.
- Communities take note as collection boxes disappear — The news was full of stories of the decline of the familiar blue box, a part of a national-cost-saving measure.
- Unprecedented cost reductions are not enough — The Postal Service squeezed 115 million workhours and $6.1 billion in costs from its operations, but it was not enough to offset the effect of volume losses.
- Mail goes paperless — A new way of “mailing” garnered attention as services emerged that allow mailers to send electronic “mail” using physical address information.
- Congress grants health care prefunding relief — Congress allowed the Postal Service to reduce its contribution to the Postal Service’s retiree health fund by $4 billion this year. Without this relief, the Postal Service would have come very close to running out of cash.
- The Postal Service requests 5-day delivery — Postmaster General Potter requested that the Postal Service be given the authority to cut a day of delivery if necessary.
- Perfect storm almost swamps the Postal Service — Large mail volume losses and the continuing heavy requirements to prefund retiree health benefits nearly tipped the Postal Service into insolvency.
This topic is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
on Oct 19th, 2009
| 10 comments
Pushing the Envelope officially launched on October 14 last year. Since that time, the blog has posted more than 49 topics including this one and more than 1,700 comments. Some topics have been more popular than others, and those covering issues of interest to Postal Service employees have generally received the most attention. For example, the following topics were the top five in terms of page views.
- 1. The OIG Wants to Know How You Feel about Sick Leave
- 2. Silly Rules
- 3. Nationwide Wage Uniformity
- 4. Brainstorm Ideas to Help the Postal Service
- 5. Brainstorm Ideas Part 2
But many of the less popular topics have also generated valuable debate about the Postal Service, its operations, and the postal industry in general. The OIG has even used reader comments and the results of blog polls in reports (for example, see Retail Technology Strategy — Automated Postal Centers and Financial Reporting Information Under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006.
As we start our second year, the contributors and editors to Pushing the Envelope would like to hear more from you on what you want from the OIG’s blog. What do you like about the blog? What can we improve? What topics would you like to see? Let us know what you think.
This topic is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).
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