• on Dec 11th, 2013 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 3 comments

    Wouldn’t it be nice to receive only the advertising mail that interests you? Information about products and services you like or want to learn about, and nothing else? And wouldn’t it be nice for advertisers to know more about what recipients think about their ads? Is an offer appealing, but the timing is not right, or is a recipient completely uninterested?

    Creating a system to share this information is a possibility, and the U.S. Postal Service could play a key role in making it happen. That’s the concept of a new white paper released by the Postal Service Office of Inspector General today. Strengthening Advertising Mail by Building a Digital Information Market highlights the importance of maintaining and strengthening advertising mail by enabling more direct communication from mail recipients ultimately back to the advertiser.

    Ad mailings could then be targeted with almost pinpoint accuracy, increasing revenues for advertisers and reducing recycling for everyone. The system would benefit the Postal Service, too, by making ad mail even more relevant and valuable.

    One potential approach starts with using a smart phone or tablet to scan a digital code on the front of a piece of ad mail you receive, and then accessing an interactive system into which you can record your advertising preferences. In return, you are sent a coupon redeemable for merchandise from a variety of vendors, and in the future you would receive ads tailored to products and services of interest to you. Participation would be strictly voluntary, and privacy guidelines would be established.

    Tell us what you think! Do you think customers would be inclined to access an interactive system to record advertising preferences if it meant special offers or more targeted mailings in the future? 

  • on Oct 25th, 2013 in OIG | 0 comments

    On July 26, 1775, all you needed to deliver the mail was a strong back and a fast horse. In 2013, the tools required to move 40 percent of the world’s mail sound more at home in science fiction. Robots, supercomputers, 23 petabytes of digital storage (that’s 24,117,248 Gigabytes), and one of the world’s largest computer networks help deliver letters and parcels across the globe. Like any organization of its size and profile, the Postal Service regularly sees malicious activity directed at its network. The Office of Inspector General's Computer Crimes Unit (CCU) works closely with the Postal Service's Corporate Information Security Office to investigate and prosecute threats to Postal Service networks and information resources.




    Information security is a shared responsibility and we need your help to keep the Postal Service network secure. So as we close out National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we share some simple steps that go a long way toward improving security:

    • Keep a clean computer – keep your anti-virus, operating system, and software programs updated. Many attacks exploit vulnerabilities in unpatched systems that could be prevented simply by keeping current with updates.
    • Be wary of emails and websites soliciting personal information or login credentials, even if they look real. Also be suspicious of unexpected emails, especially those with attachments.
    • Use strong passwords – good passwords use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, and numbers and symbols. Use different passwords for each of your accounts
    • For our customers, beware of bogus package delivery notification messages and Change of Address websites. Find out about these schemes and how to avoid becoming a victim on the Postal Inspection Service's (https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/pressroom/schemealerts.aspx) page.
    • For Postal employees and contractors, please stay vigilant and report suspected security incidents or suspicious activity immediately to the Computer Incident Response Team at USPSCIRT[at]usps[dot]gov or call 866-USPS-CIRT (866-877-7247).

    For more information on how to stay safe online, visit http://www.staysafeonline.org/.

    We’re here to support our Postal Service customers around the clock and can be reached via the OIG main number at 703-248-2100. You can also report security incidents to us online via the OIG Hotline or at 888-USPS-OIG (888-877-7644).

    We welcome your input on information security. If you are a business, how do you educate your employees and customers about the importance of information security? Consumers and employees, are there ways the Postal Service could strengthen their systems? 

  • on Aug 12th, 2013 in Finances: Cost & Revenue | 6 comments

    Performance-based contracting lets government agencies acquire services using contracts that define what is to be achieved, not necessarily how the work is done. The idea is that contractors have the freedom to define how they will achieve the objectives, which allows them to use innovative approaches. The government benefits by receiving best-value products and services.

    Procurement professionals believe performance-based contracting makes acquisitions better by helping government procurement officials be good stewards of taxpayer dollars — which government contracting is all about. At first glance, it might appear that performance-based contracting transfers a large share of responsibility from government to contractor by requiring the contractor to come up with the actual solution to meet the government agency’s metrics. However, the government procurement official’s responsibilities are not less, they are just different. Performance-based contracting has four attributes: a statement of objectives that describes the desired outcome, measurable performance metrics, a quality assurance plan to monitor the contractor’s performance, and incentives to encourage better performance. Government officials need to be educated in methodologies and metrics to ensure success.

    The U.S. Postal Service uses performance-based contracting for some of its contracts, but not all. A recent Office of Inspector General audit found that the Postal Service does not have adequate controls to oversee performance-based contracts and it does not track this method in its data systems. Thus, it does not always take advantage of the benefits of performance-based contracting. Although officials did not track these contracts, our audit identified six performance-based contracts with incentives valued at $602 million. We also identified two additional contracts that could have been awarded as performance-based contracts but were not, even though postal policy encourages their use because of the potential benefits, such as cost reduction and revenue generation.

    The Postal Service has worked to streamline and improve its procurement process to create a more business-like approach to purchasing and to reduce purchasing costs. The performance-based contracting approach gives the Postal Service an opportunity to further the goals of streamlining and reinvention because it gives contractors more latitude for determining methods of performance, with more responsibility for performance quality.

    What do you think is the best way for the Postal Service to monitor contract performance? How should the Postal Service determine what to monitor and how frequently? What other ways could the Postal Service improve the procurement process?

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