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Postal Service chief seeks congressional support for changes to mail service

By Ed O'Keefe

As Postmaster General John E. Potter met with lawmakers Thursday to discuss his plans for restructuring the U.S. Postal Service, he acknowledged that the mail agency could reduce its workforce further.

Asked by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) whether postal employees at all levels are being fully utilized, Potter said, “The answer is no, but are we operating in an optimum world? The answer is no."

Potter appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to defend his call for greater flexibility to cut Saturday mail deliveries, raise postage rates and potentially close or consolidate thousands of post offices. The proposal also calls for cutting tens of thousands of jobs through attrition and layoffs. The Postal Service stands to lose about $238 billion in the next 10 years if Congress fails to act, Potter said.

"We do have a very aggressive plan that’s been laid out and shared," Potter said, noting he has tried to make other cuts, but is "often constrained by folks getting involved and suggesting to us that we don’t do it, including some of the folks in the Congress."

Though no lawmaker wholeheartedly endorsed all of Potter's ideas, they appeared eager to address the impending financial shortfall.

"The one thing we believe we are all in agreement on is that doing nothing is no longer a viable option," said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.).

But how the Postal Service inevitably adjusts remains open to debate.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he would introduce legislation allowing Potter to establish a panel similar to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, to independently assess which post offices should close. He has also proposed establishing at least eight postal holidays during slow periods instead of cutting Saturday deliveries.

"To say that we’re going to eliminate 52 days of service is not necessarily going to drive volume forward," Chaffetz said. "I don’t think eliminating Saturday delivery before the Christmas holiday is necessarily wise."

Postal Regulatory Commission Chairman Ruth Y. Goldway, whose panel will issue a nonbinding opinion on Potter's plans later this year, blasted the idea of moving post offices into nearby supermarkets or pharmacies.

"Ask the small towns of America if they think government business should be conducted in Wal-Marts," she said. "Why would any rational person compare the function of a post office to Wal-Mart, as the Postal Service consultants did?"

Goldway urged the Postal Service to convert its 220,000-plus vehicle fleet to run on electricity instead of fuel, provide more government services at post offices, open a 24-hour post office in every major city, and partner with the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct the 2020 Census.

"Improvements that may seem small can create the incremental reinvigoration that begets real growth," Goldway said.

Chaffetz later criticized Goldway's "very subjective" comments, arguing she improperly offered her personal opinions before the completion of the commission's final report.

Potter also asked lawmakers to address recent findings by the postal inspector general that the mail agency overpaid the Civil Service Retirement System by $75 billion. Refunding the entire overpayment would help ease the agency's financial woes but would not close the total gap, Potter said.

A Senate subcommittee meets next Thursday to also consider Potter's plans.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | April 15, 2010; 12:49 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Congress  
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Comments

Goldway is right, you can't compare the USPS to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart makes a profit. Her other ideas will cost more money than they will save. Convert all vehicles to electric? There goes a spike in electricity costs and rolling blackouts since the electrical grid will be unable to maintain 200,000 vehicles plugged in. Provide more government services? Like what? Allow the USPS to rob people of more taxes! Have a 24 hour post office open in every city? How many people to man a post office for one or two people to come in every night, if lucky? Typical liberal answers to a major problem. The answer is very clear, consolidate plants, eliminate Sat delivery, and get rid of employees, both craft and management to streamline a service that needs less and less employees (plus this is 2010, there is no need for walking routes, every route should be mounted or have NDBCU's at every corner, this would save on worker's comp by cutting down on slips, trips, and falls, and dog bites)

Posted by: perry6102 | April 15, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

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