It’s far more interesting to imagine the enlightened possibilities for a future postal system than sweating and fretting over the details embedded within the current Postal Reform proposals. If only those details weren’t so darn important. You see, what goes into the Reform sausage will establish a directional framework within which the postal eco-system will evolve – or perhaps devolve. Here are two cases in point.
The Good: Creating a Strategic Vision for the Future of the Postal Service
The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee apparently recognizes its limitations as a body to produce a Plan for postal transformation. In its proposed Postal Reform Bill, S. 1486, is a provision for creating a group called the Strategic Advisory Commission on Postal Service Solvency and Innovation. Composed of 7 appointed individuals (3 presidentially and one each from the two Parties in the Senate and House) the Commission would be charged with providing strategic guidance to the President, Congress, Board of Governors and the Postmaster General. Its focus would be on recommending directions for enhancing long-term solvency and offering innovative thinking to address the challenges facing the Postal Service.
Within 9 months the Commission would be required to produce a ‘Strategic Blueprint for Long-Term Solvency’. Soon after its report is delivered the Commission would be disbanded. Below lifted verbatim from the proposed Bill is what would be included in the report:
(A) an assessment of the business model of the Postal Service as of the date on which the report is submitted;
(B) an assessment of potential future business models for the Postal Service, including an evaluation of the appropriate balance between–
(i) necessary reductions in costs and services; and
(ii) additional opportunities for growth and revenue;
(C) a strategy for addressing significant current and future liabilities;
(D) identification of opportunities for further reductions in costs;
(E) identification of opportunities for new and innovative products and services;
(F) a strategy for future growth;
(G) a vision of how the Postal Service will operate in a sustainable manner 20 years after the date of enactment of this Act; and
(H) recommendations for any legislative changes necessary to implement the strategic blueprint described in this paragraph.
Establishing a bi-partisan Advisory Commission is a Good idea, even though most of this material has already been developed or discussed by the Postal Service and others in the years since the President’s Commission on the Postal Service in 2003. It removes the limitations inherent in the Congressional political process for producing the transformational thinking needed to evolve the nation’s postal system to a more prosperous place.
The Weird: Micromanagement Without Vision
Then there is the bi-partisan ‘Authority’ being proposed in the House Oversight and Government Reform’s proposed Postal Reform Bill H.R 2748. The proposal calls for the creation of a ‘Postal Service Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority’. The idea is to abolish the Board of Governors (BOG) and replace it with an ‘Authority’ made up of five appointed individuals representing each party from both branches of Congress and the President. The Authority’s mandate is to perform essentially the same duties of the BOG (with new micromanagement flair) until the Postal Service is able to produce a profit for two successive years at which time the Authority will be dissolved and a new BOG appointed. Weird is the word that comes to mind for this idea.
Is it possible that the BOG irritated the House Committee’s leadership by its attempts to press forward with changes – 5 day delivery, plant consolidations, un-profitable post office closings, etc. – to help stem mounting losses from the unreasonably high pre-funding requirement Congress imposed but was unwilling to fix? Or, maybe it’s just a blame thing. Somebody had to take the hit for the financial problem and the House Committee’s leadership is unwilling to look in the mirror. If that’s the case, RIFing the BOG is logical, albeit unfair, thing to do.
By the way, ‘Authority’ as defined in Mirriam Webster is – the power to give orders or make decision: the power or right to direct or control someone or something. So if Congress thinks America needs a Postal Service with management that is powerless, makes no significant decisions, and still needs to be micro-managed, then they are on the right track with this idea. I wonder how many in the mailing industry will really agree. It’s not what management gurus or even consultants would say. The American public will certainly be confused.
By Rod DeVar
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