In a time when everyone is examining the dollars and cents of the postal business, people have a tendency to overlook the bigger picture: the greater role of the Postal Service in modern society. With that in mind, the Postal Regulatory Commission requested the Urban Institute to study the Postal Service. The focus was not a traditional look at the business but a study of the benefits of the Postal Service and its infrastructure to the American population.
In the past 18 years, the Postal Service has reorganized its field structure at least three times. In 1992, the Postal Service reorganized its field structure from five regions and 73 field divisions into 10 areas and 85 districts. From 2002-2006 the Postal Service changed its field structure to nine areas and 80 districts, and adjusted again in 2009 to eight areas and 74 districts.
“If it fits, it ships.” If this sounds familiar, you probably heard it from the Postal Service’s Priority Mail® Flat Rate advertising campaign broadcasted on TV or radio. The Flat Rate option offers a simpler way to ship — whatever fits in the flat rate box or envelope (up to 70 pounds) ships for one rate to anywhere in the United States. There is virtually no weighing or calculating. The packages reach their destinations in 1 to 3 days. Normally, Priority Mail prices are based on weight and destination.
Recent Government Accountability Office testimony to Congress stated processing capacity for First-Class Mail exceeds processing needs by 50 percent, and analysis by industry experts indicates an additional drop of 35 billion pieces in First-Class Mail by 2020. With mail volume declining, does this provide an opportunity for the Postal Service to capture savings by adopting industry best practices in its First-Class Mail processing operations?
The Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) is one of the retirement programs of the U.S. government, and benefits are extended to U.S. Postal Service employees. FERS is administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Congress established the guidelines for OPM to set contribution rates and can alter them by passing new law or amending an existing law. Postal Service employees who began their careers after December 31, 1983, are automatically enrolled in the FERS. For Postal Service employees, a majority of FERS funding is accomplished through Postal Service contributions.
The debate about the Postal Service’s future is heating up and Pushing the Envelope is interested in your views. Last week the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security held a hearing on the Future of the Postal Service. The week before there was a hearing in the House on the Postal Service’s financial crisis and future viability, and on April 12, the Government Accountability Office issued a report laying out the strategies and options to maintain the Postal Service’s viability.
The Postal Service is required by law to “provide, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.” Consequently, the Postal Service has the largest retail presence in America with more than 32,000 leased or owned facilities located across the country. Today, alternate access channels are widely available. Customers can purchase stamps and access services at the Postal Service’s website www.usps.com, self-serve kiosks, grocery stores, retail outlets, and privately-operated shipper locations.
According to a New York Times article, nearly 10 percent of Americans do not have bank accounts. These and other underbanked people may be taken advantage of by lenders, check cashing facilities, and pawnbrokers through excessive interest rates and fees. Fortunately, in this country, there are many options for consumers to choose, including prepaid debit cards. What if the Postal Service explored partnering with prepaid debit card providers to sell prepaid debit cards at post offices, just as they are now sold at other retail outlets?
As the Postal Service examines its business model and contemplates changes meant to increase its efficiency, Congress’s role in postal operations has captured public attention. A prime example is the Postal Service’s recent efforts to trim its retail operations. As a cost cutting initiative, on July 2, 2009, the Postal Service filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission a list of Post Office stations and branches it was considering closing. After the filing, many entities questioned the Postal Service’s authority to close these facilities. An article published on the U.S.