Congress Approves Defense Bill, $500 Million for USPS

Share this content:
The House and Senate both approved a $20 billion Sept. 11 relief package yesterday that includes $500 million for the U.S. Postal Service to screen and sanitize the nation's mail.

The House vote was 408-6 and the Senate was 94-2. The anti-terrorism package, the second half of the $40 billion Congress approved immediately after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, gives the Defense Department an extra $3.5 billion.

The money going to the USPS would pay for additional security measures, not to help the agency make up for any lost revenue from lower mail volume since Sept. 11 and the anthrax scares. If President Bush signs the bill, postal officials will need to send a report to Congress to detail exactly how they will spend the $500 million. Postmaster general John E. Potter was vague with specifics in a letter to House and Senate appropriators this month.

"[The USPS] will aggressively pursue the purchase and installation of biohazard detection equipment for our major processing centers, special vacuums for facilities and vacuum modifications to our equipment," Potter wrote.

The core of the agency's strategy is the combined use of irradiation, detection and cleansing, Potter said. However, postal officials aren't expected to continue with the current system.

"While we are still interested in irradiation, right now we are focusing on detection and cleaning equipment," a source at the postal service said. "There are some problems with the current system, and we are not sure we or our customers can live with this."

The only mail being irradiated now is addressed to the federal government, media outlets and postal offices in Washington as well as mail that piled up in the New Jersey and Washington facilities where anthrax was found. Some of the sanitized mail is arriving slightly damaged and discolored from the technology, turning white business envelopes pale yellow and brittle, shrinking the transparent strips and changing the texture of the paper inside. In other instances, platinum-colored credit cards have reportedly turned gold, as have platinum-colored CDs.

Though the agency is aware that irradiation has damaged mail, no complaints have been filed, a USPS spokesman said.

Postal officials discussed which mail-sanitization technology to use with the General Accounting Office and the House Government Reform Committee this month, but no decisions were made. Among the ideas suggested: Put windows on all envelopes, and set up a stamp buyers' identification system requiring all postal customers to show ID before buying stamps.

More complex suggestions involved creating a "track-and-trace" system in which the USPS would track packages throughout their journeys. Another proposal was to use different mail streams for the various types of mail so that film, for instance, would not follow the same mailing process as a consumer's credit-card payment.

Sign up to our newsletters

Company of the Week

Since 1985, Melissa has helped thousands of companies clean, correct and complete contact data to better target and communicate with their customers. We offer a full spectrum of data quality solutions, including global address, phone, email, and name validation, identify verification - available for batch or real-time processes, in the Cloud or on-premise. Our service bureau provides dedupe, email/phone append and geographic/demographic append services for better targeting and insight. For direct mailers, Melissa offers easy-to-use address management/postal software, list hygiene services and 100s of specialty mailing lists - all with competitive pricing and excellent customer service.

Find out more here »

Career Center

Check out hundreds of exciting professional opportunities available on DMN's Career Center.  
Explore careers in digital marketing, sales, eCommerce, marketing communications, IT, data strategies, and much more. And don't forget to update your resume so employers can contact you privately about job opportunities.

>>Click Here

Relive the 2017 Marketing Hall of Femme

Click the image above