USPS Fears Aviation Security Law Could Cause Delays

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While U.S. Postal Service officials are concerned that mail-screening provisions in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act could cause delivery delays, they are even more worried that the law is unclear about what is expected of them.

"It's really not clear what the impact of this bill is going to be because it has nebulous terms in it, such as 'all mail has to be scanned,' " said Paul Vogel, vice president of network operations management for the USPS. "We are also not sure what the bill means by the term scanning. It is not our intention to buy scanning equipment, especially since we don't know what they mean by scanning -- bomb scanning or X-rays."

The bill, S. 1447, was signed into law Nov. 20. It calls for a new undersecretary of transportation for security to provide for the screening of all passengers and property, including U.S. mail and cargo, that will be carried aboard passenger aircraft operated by a domestic or foreign carrier.

The bill requires that within 60 days of enactment, everything going on board a passenger aircraft be screened by methods approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Congress, however, gave the Transportation Department and the airline industry flexibility about how they would meet the deadline.

The USPS has said that 25 percent of its mail, most of which is First-Class, is transported on a passenger aircraft.

Vogel, however, said nothing is expected to happen soon, especially because Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said Nov. 27 that the government would not meet a January deadline for screening all checked airline baggage, as required under the new law.

Vogel also said the USPS is arranging a meeting with all parties involved to try to determine what is expected of the postal service to comply with the law.

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