on May 29th, 2012
in Strategy & Public Policy
| 1 comment
When online, how do you know who you’re really communicating with? Does that affect your shopping or banking habits? Do you know people who don’t use the Internet much because they are afraid of identity theft? The latest statistics from a Pew Research Center study demonstrate the pull of the Internet: •80 percent of Americans are users, whether through personal computer, tablet, or smartphone; •many of those users do not conduct any kind of commerce; •30 percent have not made a purchase online; •and 40 percent do not bank online. Would a more secure approach to online identity raise those figures? The Office of Inspector General’s new paper Digital Identity: Opportunities for the Postal Service examines the world of digital identity as well as many existing digital authentication solutions, including pilot projects, and potential roles for the Postal Service in the digital identity ecosystem. The paper posits that there is a need for a trusted and neutral body to identify, authenticate, and certify users in a straightforward manner that reduces sign-up friction and maintains privacy with very clear, concise, and enforceable policy guidelines. The Postal Service, given its national presence, physical infrastructure, and history of protecting privacy, could operate in a number of roles: •As a Trusted Third Party Online – The Postal Service could verify individual or business addresses (with permission from each user) for other organizations to facilitate eCommerce or other online transactions. •As an Identity Provider – The Postal Service could offer its own digital identity service, an opt-in service verifying attributes of consumers, businesses and organizations. •Providing in-Person Verification Services – The Postal Service could expand the work it already does for passports and offer in-person verification of mailing addresses through its network of post offices and postal carriers. What do you think? Is there a role for the Postal Service in digital identity? Share your thoughts below!
on May 14th, 2012
in Strategy & Public Policy
| 3 comments
Do you ever wonder about the future? Will flying cars ever arrive? Are video phones here at last? Will the end of paper finally come? Businesses can greatly benefit from knowing a little about future possibilities. At a time of great social and technological transition, understanding what might lie ahead can help businesses – like the Postal Service - prepare themselves to adapt. Deutsche Post DHL, the logistics and delivery company, commissioned a study to look at the world in 2050. The study, Delivering Tomorrow - Logistics 2050, was prepared with the help of a firm of futurists and foresight experts. Through interviews with key experts, the study’s authors determined 14 key factors that could influence the future of logistics such as income growth and trends in trade regulation. Then, they investigated potential outcomes for these factors. The possibilities were combined into five potential visions of the future: • Untamed Economy – Impending Collapse – World income grows rapidly, and globalization continues. The sheer pace of the growth threatens to strain natural resources. Logistics firms are critical for transporting goods through a logistics supergrid. • Mega-efficiency in Megacities – People live in urban metropolises that have managed to solve many of the problems of dense urban growth such as traffic jams. Rural areas are left behind as economic activity becomes increasingly concentrated in these giant megacities, which are connected by logistics firms. • Customized Lifestyles – A revolution in 3-D printing lets people make goods very near where they live. This allows for an incredible increase in customization and individualization. It also means that there is far less need to transport goods across the world. • Paralyzing Protectionism – Globalization falters as countries retreat into protected regional trade blocs. Even the Internet splits apart. Technological development lags, infrastructure crumbles, and resource scarcity slows economic growth. Regional logistics champions carry goods, and customs clearance takes weeks. • Global Resilience – Local Adaptation – Natural disasters, crises, and attacks make resilience and redundancy critical. Businesses use adaptable technology, such as production facilities that can turn off and on as needed. Redundancy is expensive so standards of living are lower. Trade is regionalized rather than global, and logistics firms focus on security rather than timeliness. What do you think of these visions of the future? (Keep in mind the short descriptions above only hint at the full scenarios in the paper.) What role will the U.S. Postal Service play?
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.