Henderson: '98 Will Be One of USPS' Best

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Postmaster General William J. Henderson told a House subcommittee June 10 that 1998 looks to be one of the best financial years for the U.S. Postal Service.

He said that to continue to provide universal service at affordable prices, the postal service has to focus on performance, people and public policy. Testifying before the House Subcommittee on the Postal Service for the first time since being named PMG last month, Henderson said that revenue and mail volume are 3 percent ahead of last year and that net income is ahead of budget.

"As a result, we expect to further reduce our negative equity this year," he said. "Since 1994, we have cut our accumulated losses from $9 billion to $4.4 billion at the close of fiscal year 1997. We have done this while keeping postage rates steady for the past 3 1/2 years."

Henderson went on to discuss his plans for the USPS -- including focusing on increasing performance and defining its strategy to improve people skills and thrive in a competitive marketplace. He also announced that he will discontinue the "Auto Day in the Mail" program, begun in May in Milwaukee and designed to give local automobile companies the chance to deliver their auto advertising mail to households on Fridays.

The "Auto Day" program, which was designed to woo auto companies, came under fire from other bulk mailers who were concerned that its day-certain delivery would jeopardize delivery of their mail. They also questioned why the USPS was favoring auto companies. The newspaper industry objected to the program because it thought the USPS was using its quasi-governmental status to steal advertising business.

Although the USPS maintained that overall service wouldn't be sacrificed and that it isn't after anyone's advertising business, Henderson said he has discontinued the service in Milwaukee and has put it on hold indefinitely. However, Advantage Mail, another day-certain delivery prgram that is available to other indutries still is scheduled to be begin its pilot program in July in Cincinnati.

This pleased some members of Congress, most notably Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH), who, according to spokeswoman Debbie Winston, questioned Henderson at the hearing because of letters he had received from companies in his district. Henderson said that the postal service doesn't want to build revenue at the expense of the newspaper industry and that postal managers are working on ways to improve newspaper delivery.

"I remain convinced that there are natural, positive synergies that the postal service and the newspaper industry can bring to our customers by working together," Henderson said.

Karla Corcoran, inspector general of the USPS, and Bernard Ungar, director of government business operations issues at the General Accounting Office, also spoke at the hearing. Both the GAO and the inspector general -- the postal watchdogs -- had mixed feelings about the USPS and its performance and future.

Ungar said that although the USPS has shown that it can maintain a high income level and provide its customers with improved service, challenges remain that are dependent upon the extent to which Congress, the USPS and other major postal stakeholders focus attention on labor-management relations, postal reform, competition and the postal service's strategic plan implementation.

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