Almost every quarter we read about the United States Postal Service (USPS) losing money. The fact is they are not just losing money, they are hemorrhaging it.
Recently, I read that the USPS will be unable to pay for the healthcare benefits for future retirees. Maybe this will get someone’s attention. If not, the $329 million they lost in the first quarter of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 (Oct-Dec) should get someone’s attention.
Congress does have the Constitutional power to step in and do something to save the Postal Service (Article I, Section 8).
There are around 36,400 Post Offices in the United States and they have around 596,000 career employees. They processed about 177 billion pieces of mail in 2009. (Source PDF)
Don’t get me wrong, I like getting my mail delivered to my home. They do a tremendous job, but it is well past time to close and regionalize some of the Post Offices and postal facilities.
Every time someone mentions closing a Post Office, local officials cry foul and Not In My Backyard (NIMBY). Many years ago, I lived in a small town that had their Post Office closed. Yes, it hurt the town when we lost our Zip Code, but you know what – The few residents in that town still receive their mail today. Many Post Offices are not closed because of Congressional pressure to keep them open. Normally the Post Offices stay open and continue to waste valuable resources.
The same thing used to happen when the Department of Defense wanted to close a military base or move a mission.
Back in 1980s, Congress finally realized that they had excess military installations. They also realized that some of the missions at some military installations could be placed somewhere else and money could be saved.
So in 1988, Congress created the Base Realignment and Closing Commission (BRAC). So far there have been five rounds. Another one is scheduled for 2015.
Basically it works by the DOD coming up with a list of installations to close or realign. The President selects a nine member “commission” to review the recommendations from the DOD. The Commission can add or subtract from the list. They visit each base or installation and hold meetings. The final list is sent to the President who has to approve the whole list or reject it. Congress can vote to reject the list or do nothing and the list remains intact.
Although the United States Postal Service is an independent government agency (also called a quasi-governmental agency), the same process could work with the U.S. Postal Service that was done with the DOD. It has to be done by an independent commission, not from within.
It’s well past time to create a BRAC process and reform the United States Postal Service so they can continue to deliver mail well into this century.