Postal Reform Page: 8 of 15
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competitors, unions, and users of the many classes of mail in a 10-month adjudicative
process leading to new rates and classification requirements.
The legal and regulatory framework established by the Act served reasonably well for
nearly three decades. Delivery service and customer satisfaction improved, USPS survived
without general appropriations since 1983, rising mail volumes covered the costs of adding
new routes and delivery points each year, and prices rose generally in line with inflation.
Postal issues came to be perceived as minor enough that postal service committees and
eventually even subcommittees disappeared from the congressional organization chart.
However, few who are familiar with postal affairs believe that Congress can ignore the
current state of the enterprise. USPS admits that its business model no longer works in the
21"century, and Comptroller General David Walker testified bluntly on May 13, 2002 before
a Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee that the institution's current course is
The USPS Transformation Plan
When GAO placed the long-term outlook for USPS on its High Risk List in the spring
of 2001, the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs asked USPS to prepare a
comprehensive plan to address its financial, operational, and workforce challenges, along
with a time frame and key milestones for achieving positive results. USPS eventually came
to welcome the opportunity to lay before Congress a comprehensive statement of what it
needed to make its business successful.
USPS released its Transformation Plan in April, 2002 with a substantial public relations
effort. The plan contains 400 pages of historical and analytical information about changes
in the postal business in the United States and throughout the world, and presents three
alternative futures for USPS. It rejects the option of returning to government agency status,
and depending on Congress to provide appropriations to maintain universal service as the gap
between costs and revenues continues to widen. It also dismisses the prospect of
privatization as likely to lead to substantial layoffs, and inevitably leading to cuts in services
and geographic coverage that do not pay for themselves. The option USPS favors is called
the "Commercial Government Enterprise," preserving government ownership but allowing
USPS to operate under more businesslike conditions than what the 1970 Postal
Reorganization Act provides.
(See the Transformation Plan at [http://www.usps.com/strategicdirection/transform.htm].)
While it lacked (as GAO pointed out) a detailed action plan, milestones, and concrete
legislative recommendations, the transformation plan did propose a number of significant
departures from the status quo. The following are among those likely to require
" An aggressive effort to "optimize the retail network" and "redesign the
postal logistics network," which would entail lifting the moratorium on
closing post offices, streamlining the process for more closures, and
reducing the number of processing centers.
Here’s what’s next.
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Postal Reform, report, February 25, 2003; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc806221/m1/8/: accessed April 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.