RARC-WP-15-003 - 12/15/2014

Throughout its history, the U.S. Postal Service has been part of the nation’s vital infrastructure, facilitating economic activity, improving quality of life, and benefiting wider society in a variety of ways. But the Postal Service is also mandated to operate like a business, which can pose challenges to its public service mission. The resulting tension between the two was easier to manage when postal revenues were sufficient to fully cover the agency’s costs and obligations. But today, the Digital Age is cutting into the volume of the product that contributes more than half of the funds to support the network: First-Class Mail. And this strain has led to more tension between the Postal Service as a public service provider and as a business.

Moreover, new technologies and global commerce are changing the nation’s infrastructure needs. The Postal Service would benefit from more clarity about what it should offer in this evolving environment.

Our white paper, The Postal Service’s Role as Infrastructure, presents three broad options the Postal Service and its stakeholders could consider when deciding how to adapt the Postal Service’s role for the future. These options are not mutually exclusive. But they should be evaluated together so all potential uses are recognized and accounted for as part of major changes to the size and scope of the Postal Service’s infrastructure. 

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Contributors

  • Nye Stevens and Renee Sheehy contributed to this report.