GAO Report Offers Options to Enhance Mail Security

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The U.S. Postal Service, the mailing industry and other stakeholders can help restore public confidence in the nation's mail system by working together and taking immediate steps to secure the safety of the mail, according to a U.S. General Accounting Office report issued yesterday.

The repot is a summation ideas discussed at a meeting on December 10. It was sent to members of Congress, the USPS' Postmaster General and those who attended the meeting, which was by Reps. Dan Burton, R-IN, Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and Henry A. Waxman, D-CA, the ranking minority member.

Both congressmen felt that a conference where participants identified options --other than irradiation -- to enhance mail security and postal operations would be helpful the USPS and its congressional oversight committees in addressing anthrax-related challenges.

In general, conference participants agreed that there is no single or simple solution for ensuring mail safety. Nevertheless, according to the report "they agreed that the [U.S. Postal] Service, the mailing industry, and other stakeholders should work closely together to assess customer risks, develop a framework for responding to potential threats, and take immediate steps to secure the safety oaf the mail to restore public confidence in the integrity of the postal system."

The report said many participants also agreed that detection technology is essential for securing the mail, and emphasized the need to enhance the efficency of postal operations.

Some of the options suggested to enhance mail security and operations included:

· Conducing risk-based assessment of potential threats;

· Redesigning and reducing the number of collection boxes to enhance employee and public safety;

· Encouraging the mailing industry to take steps to enhance mail security;

· Reducing the anonymity of mailers through such measures requiring identification from mailers and using video-enabled kiosks;

· Creating separate mail streams correspsonding to the level of risk associated with source of mail;

· Accelerating the service's implementation of and information platform to, among other things, track and trace mail using enhanced bar codes and trackable postage;

· Changing postage rate structures to establish incentives for mailers to promote security, such as discounts and surcharges;

· Communicating a clear and consistent message to employees and the public on security-related matters; and

· Reexamine the postal infrastructure and delivery standards to improve efficency and security.

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