Personalized postage stamps, a security system to track mail and fewer postal employees were among the recommendations yesterday from two subcommittees of the President's Commission on the U.S. Postal Service.
The recommendations from the technology challenges and workforce subcommittees will be combined with ones announced last week and then delivered to President Bush by July 31.
Yesterday's meeting was the last public one for the commission. The reports introduced last week were from the co-chairs and the business model and private sector partnership subcommittees.
The workforce subcommittee said the USPS must develop a world-class workforce appropriate to fulfilling its universal service obligation.
“The postal service will soon be presented with a unique attrition opportunity with 47 percent of current career employees eligible for retirement by 2010,” it said. “The subcommittee urges the postal service to take full advantage of this attrition opportunity and to exercise maximum discipline in its hiring practices in order to right-size and realign its workforce with minimal displacement.”
· Improve the collective bargaining process.
· Undertake a study of performance-based compensation programs for both management and represented employees.
· Repeal the statutory salary cap for executive compensation.
· Restructure management to eliminate redundant positions and geographical divisions and standardize and clarify job functions.
· Create a new board of directors to review current USPS policy relating to the accounting treatment of retiree healthcare benefits.
· Return the responsibility for funding Civil Service Retirement System pension benefits relating to the military service of USPS retirees to the Department of the Treasury.
The technology challenges subcommittee recommended that the postal service automate more systems and outsource what it can to other companies. It also suggested studying mail processing with the goal of redesigning the entire system with the latest technology.
· Put mail tracking technology in place on a timely and more comprehensive basis.
· Integrate its facility automation efforts with its transportation network by using Intelligent Mail technology, GPS and onboard computer technology.
· Develop and produce personalized stamps for postal customers at a reasonable premium.
· In coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, explore the use of sender identification for every piece of mail, commercial and retail.
· Strengthen the recently created Mailing Technology Strategy Council into an independent advisory body empowered to do more than provide assessments.
The personalized stamp program, called Picture Postage, was introduced in Canada in 2000. It lets people put pictures of family members, friends, babies and pets onto stamps.
In the co-chairs' report released last week, recommendations included transforming the USPS Board of Governors into a corporate-style board of directors with the authority to oversee postal operations. They also suggested transforming the Postal Rate Commission into a Postal Regulatory Board with the responsibility to protect the public interest.
The business model subcommittee recommended that the USPS limit its activities to collecting, sorting and delivering mail; maintain its mail monopoly and its sole access to customer mailboxes; and be required to comply with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.
It also suggested that a commission be established to oversee post office closings similar to the system used to close unnecessary military bases.
The private sector partnership subcommittee suggested outsourcing USPS functions that can be performed better and at lower cost by the private sector. It also wants the agency to develop additional private-sector partnerships to better serve the consumer and expand access to postal products and services beyond the traditional post office.
Bush established the nine-member commission Dec. 11 to uncover problems with the USPS structure and suggest legislative and administrative steps to ensure the long-term viability of postal delivery. Insiders expect the White House to send the report to Capitol Hill quickly and anticipate hearings to begin this fall by both the Senate and House oversight committees.
Mailing associations in general praised the commission and its reports but admitted that the road to postal reform will be long.
Direct Marketing Association president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen said he understands that the various interested parties won't agree on every recommendation, but he thinks the commission's work “will form the basis from which we all can move forward toward the implementation of necessary postal reform.”
The DMA said it reserved final comment and analysis until after the formal report is presented to the White House.
Bob McLean, executive director of the Mailers Council, Arlington, VA, encouraged every member of Congress to study the report.
“We congratulate the commission members for accepting such a difficult task, one that is extremely important to the 9 million Americans employed by the $9 billion mailing industry,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rep. John M. McHugh, R-NY, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Special Panel on Postal Reform and Oversight, touted the need for reform this week at a meeting sponsored by the American Postal Workers Union at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“With the future of a large and important institution like the postal service at stake, Congress would be acting irresponsibly if it used the fair weather of today as an excuse for ignoring signs of a gathering storm,” he said.
Other speakers included Sen. Tom Carper, D-DE; Rep. Danny Davis, D-IL; George Omas, chairman of the Postal Rate Commission; and Michael Critelli, chairman/CEO of Pitney Bowes Inc.
Carper, a member of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said he expects to introduce a bipartisan postal reform bill in the fall with Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, who chairs the Governmental Affairs Committee.