USPS Readies Report on Bioterrorism Spending

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Postal Service is working closely with Congressional committees to obtain the funds that will be used for combating bioterrorism attacks through the mail, a USPS executive said yesterday.

"Our engineering department is preparing a document to give to the Senate appropriations committee in the next 10 days outlining and justifying how we will spend the $500 million we were appropriated to use out of the defense budget last fall," Deborah Willhite, senior vice president, government relations at the USPS, told an audience at the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee meeting.

Willhite said that once the document clears, the USPS will receive the funds and start the process of getting more funds from the government to continue to "acquire equipment to detect, to sanitize and to clean our plants and do the work of combating bioterrorism."

Willhite also said there would be numerous oversight committee hearings this spring. In April, for example, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the USPS' transformation plan. Another hearing scheduled to take place in May will cover mail safety. In addition, Willhite said there probably would be numerous oversight hearings in the House of Representatives on transformation, reform and mail safety.

"We are a hot topic in Congress right now," she said.

The Postal Rate Commission and the USPS will report on the current status of Negotiated Service Agreements in a document it plans to send to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee later this month. NSAs essentially allow larger mailers discounts for mailing regularly.

"We hope this will kick off the biennial debate on NSAs between us and the PRC on how we might, through regulation, make NAS more applicable and easier for all of us," she said.

Willhite said the USPS is also very concerned about aviation security, specifically the Senate transportation bill passed last year that calls for the Transportation Security Administration to scan and inspect mail carried in passenger and cargo planes. This could cost the USPS a lot of time and money.

"Aviation safety has a huge potential impact on us," Willhite said. "We are monitoring this issue quite closely and will be engaged in it quite urgently this year."

Willhite also said the USPS is concerned about a House bill that would give law enforcement the authority to open and inspect mail leaving the United States without first obtaining a warrant.

Finally, Willhite said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, and Rep. Dan Burton, R-IN, are working on a compromise postal reform bill and that Rep. John McHugh, R-NY, also is working on a reform bill.

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