DMA Calls Presidential Postal Commission Premature

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The Direct Marketing Association expressed concern yesterday over the decision by the Mailers Council to call for a presidential commission to study changes to the U.S. Postal Service.

In a letter to President Bush sent yesterday, Mailers Council executive director Bob McLean called on the White House to create a commission on postal reform to evaluate the USPS.

McLean said the USPS has found it increasingly difficult to provide universal service at an affordable price. The difficulties are so severe, the letter said, that the General Accounting Office put the agency on its high-risk list, primarily because it thinks billions of dollars in taxpayer money are at risk.

The DMA, which is a member of the Mailers Council, said that though a commission might prove desirable at some point to address issues that could not be resolved by other methods, it also could delay needed postal reform legislation.

"I am very concerned that both the evolving bipartisan legislative effort and Postmaster General [John E.] Potter's strong public efforts to improve the efficiency of the service could be seriously undermined," DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen said. "While we can certainly understand the frustration that appears to have moved many Mailers Council members to support a presidential commission, deferring to a commission now would result in a serious setback for the entire mailing industry. A commission would only be useful now in conjunction with effective legislation aimed at meaningful reform.

"A long, drawn-out effort would prove very costly to the postal service, the business mailing community and a sizable chunk of the nation's economy, putting many of those 9 million private sector jobs in jeopardy. We need to move ahead now to correct the problems by making the changes we can and assign the intractable issues to a study commission later. To defer to a commission now would let Congress off the hook."

However, the concept of a presidential commission has gained steam in the past several months. Bush reportedly has signed off on a concept paper for creating it, and the process of identifying those who would serve has begun.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-HI, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on international security, proliferation and federal services, asked Potter and USPS controller general David M. Walker at a hearing yesterday their views on a commission.

Potter said that though the goal is to focus on how to restructure the postal service, the agency wouldn't oppose looking at such a commission.

Walker said that given political realities, "you are going to end up considering something like that to make [the changes the postal service needs] a reality."


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