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2011: New Year, New Congress, New PMG, Same Challenges for US Postal Service

2011 ushered in the new 112th Congress and a new Postmaster General, but the United States Postal Service (Postal Service or USPS) continues to face the same vexing challenges that have increasingly undermined its financial viability in recent years. Trying to meet these challenges, NPES and other mailing industry organizations continue to work with Congress and the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC or Commission) in addressing ways to improve and sustain the Postal Service, which remains vital to the US economy, even in an increasingly digital world.  

Former Deputy Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe has assumed the leadership of the Postal Service following the retirement of John Potter, who had been PMG since 2001. One of Donahoe’s first steps was to reorganize USPS senior management, creating what he called a “flatter, leaner organization” that has the flexibility to accomplish the Postal Service’s goals of: strengthening the business-to-consumer channel; improving the customer experience; competing for package business; and becoming a leaner, faster and smarter organization. Donahoe’s plan also includes cutting up to 7,500 positions through attrition, with the possibility of early retirement package offers.

He also announced the creation of a Chief of Sustainability Officer, who would continue leading the “greening” of the Postal Service. This new official would report to the yet-to-be-named new Deputy PMG, to whom Donohue has also assigned the responsibility of interfacing with Congress.

Near the end of the 111th Congress Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) each introduced postal reform legislation setting the stage for debate this year in the new 112th Congress. Although certainly not identical, both bills covered a wide range of issues. Each bill specifically addressed the need to recover the Postal Service’s $50 billion plus overpayment to the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS), with the hope of using the money to fund retiree health benefits and possibly other Postal Service expenses. It is anticipated that both senators will re-introduce postal reform bills in the new Congress this year.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Congressman Gerald Connolly (D-11-VA) has already introduced a postal reform bill this year, and the USPS continues to be under the jurisdiction of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, now chaired by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-49-CA) in the new Republican-lead House of Representatives. Chairman Issa has called for business to tell him which federal regulations impede business, and has specifically expressed interest in addressing Postal Service issues.

Finally, on January 11 the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC or Commission) convened a public forum beginning the statutorily required five-year evaluation of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA), with the objective of developing a report to the President and Congress that would make recommendations for legislation and other measures to improve US postal laws. Leading the forum, PRC Chair Ruth Goldway noted that the Commission has already identified areas of the law to revise, and has specifically recommended adjustments to the funding of Postal Service pension and retiree health benefits.

Commission Chair Goldway also invited comments on other areas of Postal Service activities, including: the CPI price cap, acceptable service levels, the need for classes of mail to cover their costs, work share discounts, the effectiveness of the PRC complaint process, and the ability of the Postal Service to meet the challenge of digital competition. The PRC hopes to complete its report by April of this year. 

During the wide-ranging dialogue a number of forum participants emphasized the need for the mailing industry to achieve a consensus around a common set of principles and objectives from which to speak with one unified voice to Congress. NPES strongly endorses this objective.

For more information contact NPES Government Affairs Director Mark J. Nuzzaco at phone: 703/264-7235 or e-mail: mnuzzaco@npes.org.