• on Feb 27th, 2012 in Five Elements of a Postal Solution | 5 comments

    The Postal Service is one of America’s great institutions. It connects 150 million households and businesses and is the bedrock infrastructure of the American economy and society. Yet the Postal Service faces powerful and unpredictable forces. These forces – the economic downturn, the Digital Age, globalization, and statutory and regulatory demands – are fundamentally changing its outlook for the future. Actions are needed by postal management and Congress to assure that all Americans have universal access and the opportunity to take part in the emerging new world. But, what are those actions?

    The OIG is pleased to announce that, beginning in March, we will host a series of five week-long blogs discussing the elements of a postal solution. The five elements will ask questions on the Postal Service’s mission, infrastructure, role in the Digital Age, and federal mandates. We will invite guest commentators with a wide range of views inside and outside the postal community to contribute to the series.

    On the Monday of each week, the OIG will introduce the element of a postal solution and three guest commentators. On the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, one guest commentator will contribute an opening post. During the week’s exchange, the guest commentators will submit comments and replies. On the Friday, the OIG will summarize and conclude the discussion. Of course, we invite your comments on each topic at any time.

    The Five Elements of a Postal Solution

    • March 5 – March 9: Should the Postal Service be a competitive business, an enabling infrastructure, or something in–between?
    • March 12 – March 16: What would an optimized Postal Service infrastructure look like in the 21st century and beyond?
    • March 19 – March 23: What opportunities exist for the Postal Service to integrate its traditional role in the digital world?
    • March 26 – March 30: How should Postal Service pricing be redefined in support of a lean and simple national infrastructure with a right-sized workforce in the 21st century and beyond?
    • April 2 – April 6: What should be done about the overfunding, overpayment, and other unfunded federal mandates?

    Scheduled Guest Contributors

    • John Callan, Managing Director, Ursa Major Associates, LLC
    • James Campbell, Attorney and Consultant
    • Jeff Colvin, Director Economist, OIG
    • Dan Combs, CEO, eCitizen Foundation
    • Steve Hutkins, Editor and Administrator, Save the Post Office
    • Richard Kielbowicz, Associate Professor, Communication Networks
    • Roger Kodat, former Official, Department of the Treasury
    • Jessica Lowrance, Executive Vice President, Association for Postal Commerce
    • John Payne, CEO, Zumbox
    • Alan Robinson, Courier, Express, and Postal Observer
    • John Waller, former Director of Office of Accountability and Compliance, Postal Regulatory Commission

    Please join us and invite others to participate. We look forward to hearing from you.

    This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.

  • on Feb 22nd, 2012 in Strategy & Public Policy | 36 comments

    If you pay any attention at all to legislative efforts to address the Postal Service’s financial crisis, you’ll soon hear the phrase, “budget score.” Someone will say that a bill has a high score or a low score. But what is a budget score? What is the score for?

    Budget scoring is part of a broader process to keep federal spending in check. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assigns scores to bills to show how they will affect the federal budget deficit. (Unlike most sports, a high budget score is usually considered bad.) Even though Congress placed the Postal Service off budget in 1989 and the Postal Service does not receive federal money for operations, the Postal Service often gets caught up in budget scoring concerns for two reasons: The first is off-budget spending is included in the overall measure of the budget called the unified budget. The second is that the Postal Service is required to pay in funds for pensions and retiree health benefits to certain on-budget accounts.

    The OIG described the history of the Postal Service’s entanglements with federal budget concerns in the 2009 white paper, Federal Budget Treatment of the Postal Service. The paper showed how these entanglements stymied the ability to enact postal legislation – even legislation that would return the Postal Service’s overpayments.

    In a new paper released today, Budget Enforcement Procedures and the Postal Service, the OIG updates budget events since the 2009 paper and places budget scoring and the federal budget treatment of the Postal Service within the context of the federal budget process.

    Most of the Postal Service’s operational spending is off budget and not subject to the federal budget process. The OIG argued in 2009 that the Postal Service’s retiree benefit accounts should also be off budget and disentangled from the federal budget. Until that happens, however, it is important that the Postal Service and its stakeholders understand how the budget process and budget enforcement work. This paper attempts to explain these processes and how they can affect legislation.

    What do you think about budget scoring and the Postal Service? Comment below.

    This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.

  • on Feb 20th, 2012 in Products & Services | 11 comments

    The U.S. Postal Service launched its first mobile application for the iPhone in October 2009. On several occasions, the app was listed as one of the top 10 free business applications for the iPhone. Using this application, customers can find post offices, look up zip codes, calculate postage prices, and track packages. Nearly 985,000 customers have downloaded this application and more than 50,400 use it at least once a week.

    In January 2012, the Postal Service introduced mobile scanning, which is available on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPad 2. The app allows customers to use a device’s camera to scan barcodes on shipping labels for convenient tracking of their mail. The app also stores label numbers so customers can recheck the status of their shipments and can schedule a free next-day carrier pickup of packages.

    What has been your experience with the applications? Do they help you in sending and receiving mail? What app should the Postal Service offer next?

    This blog is hosted by the Office of Audit’s Policy Formulation and Financial Controls Directorate.