Over 200 Blogs Strong

Since the launch of “Pushing the Envelope” in October of 2008, we have been blogging on topics of interest to U.S. Postal Service stakeholders and the general public. We’ve published 212 blogs to date (this one makes 213). Since it is our birthday, we thought we’d take this time to reflect on the last year and to look to the future.

First, thanks to our active readers who provide insightful commentary and food for thought. Your ideas and comments can turn into audit projects, white papers, or even the need to turn something over to our Office of Investigations.


Surplus to Requirements

There has been a surplus in the U.S. Postal Service’s Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) pension program since 1992. Most recently, the FERS surplus was projected to be $11.4 billion, accounting for most of the Postal Service’s total $13.1 billion pension surplus.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) asked Hay Group, an actuarial firm, to examine the causes of the FERS surplus, and a new OIG white paper presents the results of Hay Group’s work.


Modeling Isn’t Just For Ships Anymore

The digital revolution has changed communications, and with it, the operations and finances of the U.S. Postal Service. It also has brought deep changes in the way we design networks and analyze systems. Many organizations rely on mathematical modeling to test ideas before they become operational, conserving money and time. The Postal Service, facing limited capital and resources, has also adopted this practice. It is discovering how important these tools are for assessing strategies for designing the future mail network.


Closing the Youth Gap

As the U.S. Postal Service remakes itself into a leaner organization in the face of a communications revolution, it still remains a powerful medium and an important part of the nation’s infrastructure. A smaller Postal Service will still be huge, with more than $60 billion in projected revenue. It will not disappear tomorrow.


Rethinking Tractor Trailers for the Long Haul

The U.S. Postal Service owns more than 213,000 vehicles, the largest civilian fleet in the world. Many of these vehicles are reaching the end of their operational lives, prompting the Postal Service to wrestle with how best to address its long-term vehicle needs. A recent Government Accountability Office report noted that the organization’s current financial situation poses a significant barrier to vehicle replacement or refurbishment.
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Who Should Pay for Mail Forwarding?

More than 40 million Americans change their address each year, which means the U.S. Postal Service forwards an awful lot of mail. In fiscal year 2010, it forwarded 1.2 billion pieces. Under the Postal Service’s regulations, customers who fill out a change of address form have their mail forwarded to their new address for 12 months after the move. Mail forwarding costs the Postal Service almost $300 million a year. The cost to return mail to sender is another $800 million.


Is the Brand Suffering?

The Postal Service has built a strong brand name around service, trust, and security. Few other organizations can lay claim to such a strong brand, one with more than 200 years of history and cultivated by the Postal Service’s consistent fulfillment of its mission to securely deliver mail to every American, regardless of location, at a reasonable price. For 6 straight years, the Ponemon Institute has named the Postal Service the most trusted government agency and one of the top 10 most trusted businesses in the nation.


Developing the Nation: Past and Future?

Detail from Iron Mountain, Michigan
Post Office Mural

Some Americans may be aware that Benjamin Franklin was the first postmaster general of the United States, appointed by the Continental Congress during the American Revolution. But, unfortunately, our history lessons have otherwise overlooked the Post Office’s contribution to the development of the nation. A new paper entitled Postal Service Contributions to National Infrastructure describes some of the ways the Postal Service was used to support national infrastructure growth. For example, did you know?


Who Are You?

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.


The Costs, Should They be a-Changin’?

As the Postal Service struggles to survive, it needs to take a good look at the financial health of its products. However, ascertaining the financial health of a product line requires an accurate estimate of the cost of providing that product. The Postal Service is moving into an increasingly data-driven future; thus, the timeliness and accuracy of cost measurement will continue to grow in importance. The Postal Service has not changed its cost system fundamentally in many years, though it updates significant inputs annually.