• on Nov 4th, 2013 in OIG | 3 comments

    Wow, how time flies. Five years ago we launched our first blog as a way to engage stakeholders and solicit input on important postal topics. We haven’t stopped blogging since – 282 and counting (and more than 670,000 views!). A lot has changed in that 5 years – not necessarily for the U.S. Postal Service but in the social media realm. Things happen fast in the social media world: Facebook went public last year and now stands at a $100 billion company; Twitter has reached more than 230 million active users; the number of blogs out there has surpassed the 180 million mark; and a constant stream of newer players like Instagram and Vine further boost the impact of social media.

    Our blogging experience has changed in that time as well. Over the past year, we have noticed that overall comments to the blogs have declined, but activity on our Facebook page has soared. We post each week’s blog to our Facebook page and often find that’s where the action is. For example, our May 6 blog, “Community Connection: Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive” yielded one lonely comment on the blog, but absolutely lit up on Facebook. As of October 18, 2013, our May 9 Stamp Out Hunger Facebook post was viewed by more than 3,000 people. Similarly, using our Twitter account to mention blogs can drive activity as people retweet and favorite what we post.

    No matter where you share them, we encourage your comments. Send them via blog comments, on our Audit Project pages, on Facebook, or tweet us using @OIGUSPS. Your comments have prompted audit projects, white papers, or even the need to turn something over to our Office of Investigations. We’d also like to hear your ideas on future blog topics. What would you like us to cover? Keep in mind, a blog is a small window into an idea, not the place for exhaustive research. Often, we just tee up an issue and provide the pros and cons on it and then let the public weigh in. But we are always open to ideas.

    It might seem ironic that stakeholders like to comment online about a hard-copy service that is as old as the country itself. But we think the juxtaposition is apt – the Postal Service is still a valuable infrastructure in an increasingly digital world. Social media provides stakeholders yet another outlet for “informing the debate” about what our postal system should be. We look forward to hearing from you. 

  • on Oct 18th, 2013 in Strategy & Public Policy | 1 comment

    Last month, the U.S. Postal Service awarded the contract for a pilot program for a cloud-based identity management system called the Federal Cloud Credential Exchange (FCCX). Using a closed communications network, or "digital pipelines", the Postal Service will deliver digital packets ("envelopes") of secure identity data between government agencies and private or public identity providers. The idea is that a person could use an identity from one of many providers, such as a financial institution or utility, to access different government websites, as long as the identity met a required level of security. This should be far more convenient than logging in to separate services with multiple identities and passwords.

    Government and identity provider participants in FCCX have not been finalized. But the Veterans Administration is on board, and other potential participants, such as the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Education, and Social Security Administration, have been working with the Postal Service on the requirements and standards for the pilot.

    Once the digital pipelines have been established, they can be applied to a number of processes that require secure communications. For example, the Internet of Things, the networked interconnection of everyday objects, may include high-risk communications, such as between medical monitors and medication dispensers, mobile payment sites and financial institutions, or electric meters and power companies. The Postal Service recognizes the potential value of playing an enabling role and has made a move to secure a position in the digital world. Nextgov.com reports that the Postal Service has recently filed for a number of digitally oriented trademarks to cover services in data encryption, secure communications, and electronic document management.

    What do you think? Can the Postal Service bring greater security and privacy to online communications and transactions?

  • on Sep 23rd, 2013 in Products & Services | 25 comments

    Until the early 1970s, citizens applying for passports had to wait in long lines at one of 10 U.S. Department of State passport offices or at a federal or state court. The traveling public was not happy about the inconvenient locations of these offices or the hours’ long wait to submit an application, and they let their elected officials know. The solution allowed post offices to accept and process passport applications on behalf of the State Department. The passports were then mailed directly to the applicants.

    This arrangement has proven to be a highly successful marriage of government services. With many post offices offering passport services, it has become far more convenient for citizens. Today, customers can go online to find the nearest post office with passport services and also find the number to call to make an appointment. (Most post offices require customers to make an appointment for passport service.)

    The execution fee for a passport is $25. In fiscal year 2012, the U.S. Postal Service processed 5.7 million passport applications for revenue of $142 million. With the additional services it offers, such as passport photos and return postage, the Postal Service’s total revenues from passport services in 2012 was $182 million. It is a nice chunk of change for a service the Postal Service does not need to market aggressively. Still, the Postal Service has seen a significant decline in passport revenue over the past 4 years. In 2008, it earned $283 million from passport services.

    The decline in passport revenue could be attributed to a few things. First, the weak economy has undoubtedly reduced international travel over the past 4 years. It could also be that 2008 was an especially strong year for passport revenue because changes taking effect in 2009 required a passport to return to the U.S. from travel to Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean. However, postal staff reduction and facility closures could also be playing a role. Customers have complained about waiting too many days or weeks for a passport appointment at their Post Office or about being directed elsewhere for service.

    Why do you think passport services revenue has declined so dramatically in the past few years? Is there a way the Postal Service could improve the process? What changes could it make to maximize passport revenues?

Pages