GAO looks into USPS realignment plan, makes recommendations

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the United States Postal Service needs to improve the quality of public notices and engagement, and increase transparency in decision making.

Major changes within the mailing industry have brought on the need for the USPS to reduce costs and increase efficiency. In light of this, the GAO conducted the study. It found that the USPS has made some positive moves, developing several initiatives to achieve its overall goal of reducing costs while at the same time maintaining quality of service.

To address current trends and other major changes affecting its processing network, the USPS developed a Transformation Plan in 2002 that outlined its vision for the future. In the USPS' Strategic Transformation Plan Update 2006-2010, the USPS stated its commitment to removing $1 billion from its cost base each year. These plans describe how the USPS intends to reduce costs and increase efficiency by making changes to its mail processing network.

The USPS has four major initiatives in progress, according to GAO. The first is area mail processing consolidations to increase efficiency and use of existing automation by consolidating mail processing operations into facilities with excess capacity. Next, the USPS wants to provide essential infrastructure for a more efficient processing network. Thirdly, the USPS wants to increase efficiency by automating the sorting of flat mail, such as large envelopes and catalogs. And finally, the USPS hopes to improve its transportation network flexibility and efficiency.

" To strengthen planning and accountability for USPS' realignment efforts, the Postmaster General should ensure that the Facilities Plan, required by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement [initiative], explains the integration of realignment initiatives and establishes measurable targets to track USPS' progress in meeting realignment goals," the GAO recommended in its report.

"To help improve communication about realignment with stakeholders, the Postmaster General should modify USPS' communication strategy to improve the quality of public notices and engagement, and increase transparency in decision making."

In response to GAO's draft report, the USPS agreed with the GAO's findings and recommendations and plans to take steps to improve its communication and transparency.

The GAO believes that while the USPS has made varying progress in the development and implementation of its network realignment initiatives, it is not apparent if these initiatives will meet its network realignment goals.

"Our objectives for this report were to describe the initiatives the US Postal Service has undertaken since 2002 aimed at realigning its processing network and the status of these initiatives, evaluate how the planning, impacts, and results to date of these initiatives align with the goals of USPS' processing network realignment and evaluate USPS' communications practices with stakeholders in making network realignment decisions, and the challenges and leading practices associated with public engagement," the GAO said in its report.

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