How can the Postal Service solve its financial problems? What is the future role of the Postal Service at a time when digital alternatives are replacing many of the functions of hard copy mail? These are the questions facing policymakers and the postal community.
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Sometimes the best way to answer serious questions is to ask even more questions. A deeper look at foundational issues can provide valuable guidance for reaching the right decisions. Last month, the OIG issued a white paper Fundamental Questions for the Future of the Postal Service.

In the paper, we pose eight questions that we think are fundamental for determining the role of the Postal Service in the 21st century:

1. What is the nation’s essential need for the Postal Service in the 21st century?
2. Is a profit-driven business or a national infrastructure best suited to carry out the Postal Service’s mission?
3. How should the nation’s Postal Service be financed?
4. What is the proper governance model for the Postal Service?
5. What does the universal service obligation mean?
6. Does monopoly-financed universal service assist or harm the Postal Service?
7. Should the Postal Service be allowed to expand into nonpostal services to supplement monopoly shortfall?
8. Should the Postal Service have additional social responsibilities beyond its core mission?

We are raising these questions not to provide answers but to spur discussion. We want to hear your views. What do you think the right answers are? Have we left any fundamental questions out?

This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

Comments (13)

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  • anon

    Hello! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you have here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon....

    Jul 28, 2011
  • anon

    You can start by finding out that for a communications business we do a lousy job of communicating. Day in and day out there are screwups which should not occur but do occur because of a lack of communication. Communication is not threatening and bullying, it is a mutually respectful way to help each other. You can take your lean sigma6"s, your leeds and all the other buzz words and chuck em in a garbage can. Until your managers buy into helping each other for the good of the team and stop building their little power fiefdoms we will continue to go downhill. Gen McArthur told the Corps of Cadets that West Point had to create leaders of men, not drivers of men. If you are going to downsize management, please throw out the drivers and keep the leaders (if you can find any).

    Apr 09, 2011
  • anon

    I've been using those Carp post cards that the PO sells. .28 + ?. What an idea! A postcard that you can write a message on! And, you don't have to buy a pesky ole stamp. You know, lik em & stik em. You simply go to a post office near you, (I was in California when I discovered these kool cards) Write your message on the back, and viola! drop the card in the box, and it's whisked away to your recipient!

    Apr 07, 2011
  • anon

    Being a profit driven business for the past decades has landed the PO in this mess. Our supposed " Model Agency" is a fiasco. They are trying to cut costs in all the wrong ways. They are treating the workers terribly in an effort to "make the numbers" for their own Pay for Perfomance" bonuses. Potter jumped ship a millionaire. Start at the top, cut wasteful spending and outrageous salaries and benefits. Don't even get me started on the failing fss machines, grievances and lawsuits, overtime to make up for hiring deficiencies, OSHA fines, etc. The big boys need to get back in touch with the everyday business. Their party is over.

    Apr 05, 2011
  • anon

    SECURE, DEPENDABLE service is what my customers want. It is what I want at my house. No lost mail, reasonable delivery times. I want, and I think my own customers want, a trustworthy person of integrity. I know we are not all perfect, and every company has its problems with the above, but continual forcing more work on fewer people is not sustainable for the goals I mentioned. Reliance on computer data to micromanage route performance is only as good as the data entered, and the ability to understand it. But above all, human and humane reason and judgment should always be the focal point.

    Apr 05, 2011
  • anon

    usps with its universal service mission is one of the lasting gifts of the founding fathers. For 44cents you pay your mortgage, bills and keep in touch with yr loved ones. USPS is in trouble for a variety of reasons--not enough space here. Getting rid of "old boys" hiring and promotion, bringing back revenue protection measures, keeping control of internet postage payments, reducing the levels of hierarchy, using proven techniques of management, getting rid of influence of politicians and lobbyists, stopping high level pays for demoted managers--all these are in the works but there is resistance. There is a lot of mud flung at USPS because postmasters are not tasked with challenging defamation and falsehood used by those who want to privatize the USPS. USPS provides an essential link between citizens and one of the priviledges of being an American. Postal workers on an average earn about $50K per yr but Wall St Journal says they earn 70-100K! OIG's paper on the USPS is a good starting point.

    Apr 05, 2011
  • anon

    Inaccurate or falsified change of address orders are the most common complaint received by this postal employee. It takes up a large portion of each day. "Family" change of address orders should be eliminated and each individual person moving should be required to submit an order. There should also be a charge for this service and it should be limited to no more than 6 months. It is a huge cost to the Postal Service--no matter what the experts, PRC, USPS, OIG, or anyone perceives. It would also encourage the rental of post office boxes for persons moving on a regular basis and reduce their dependency on the USPS to keep up with their mail

    Mar 30, 2011
  • anon

    Thank you all for your comments. John, I agree a quick fix is unlikely, Russ and Henry, thanks for your suggestions about how the Postal Service can best get involved in the digital age.

    Mar 22, 2011
  • anon

    The problem is so deep and widespread that there will be no quick fix. The USPS is plagued by many of the same issues as every other government agency. At the end of the day it's not a sustainable model to charge the same few cents to deliver a piece of mail across the street as across the ocean to Hawaii. The entire business model will need to evolve and be more in line with the cost structure and whatever changes are made will also impact a the broader ecosystem of companies that rely on postal service partnerships for their business, such as Whatever changes will come, we can be sure of one thing: They will be slow.

    Mar 21, 2011
  • anon

    I think this country needs a nationwide ID card. This card should embed the Social Security number assigned to the individual and could faciliate a more secure way to carry and transmit/provide this information when needed vice the current "Paper" card provided by the Social Security Administration. This card should be a smart card that would also contain digital signature information, providing capability to digitally sign documents such as loan paperwork, contracts, etc. The DoD is on the cutting edge of this technology and has identified ways of keeping this information secure. Lessons could be learned from them in that area. While there is not widespread use of this technology now, it may be primarily because there is no organization to facilitate implementation on a nationwide scale. The USPS could be this conduit.

    Mar 15, 2011
  • anon

    How secure would this technology be if a person loses this card?

    Mar 26, 2011
  • anon

    I think USPS need to expand and digitalize some of it's services, like an official certified e-mail for example. Also they should do attrition but w/o getting rid of employees who have families.

    Mar 14, 2011
  • anon

    The average postal worker is 54. What kind of logical premise is: "attrition but w/o getting rid of employees who have families"?

    Mar 18, 2011

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