By Richard Harris – June 9, 2015
In the spacious corner office on the 10th floor of the U.S. Postal Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. hangs a framed portrait of Benjamin Franklin, America’s first Postmaster General. His eyes appear to be fixed on the woman behind the desk, the first woman to occupy the office in 240 years.
Megan Brennan, 52, not only smashed the glass ceiling to become the 74th Postmaster General and CEO of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), with one of the nation’s toughest assignments. She’s now also in charge of what you might call the family business. Brennan, her dad, and brothers have logged a combined 125 years in the Postal Service.
Straight out of college, Brennan spent a year as a letter carrier in Lancaster, Pa. Her journey took her through a host of managerial and operational positions, including seven relocations, until she was tapped last fall to lead the 600,000 men and women who sort, deliver and manage America’s mail and packages.
Brennan took the helm in February and paints her challenge this way: The Postal Service is an “unrivaled network” that faces “stiff head winds.” One key reason: First-class mail, long the leading revenue generator at the Postal Service, shrunk by 61% from 1995 to 2013.
“The reality is we’re delivering less mail to more addresses, nearly a million more delivery points last year alone,” Brennan says. Add to that what the Postmaster General describes as “the onerous burden unique to the Postal Service” — a 2006 Congressional mandate to prepay retiree health benefits to the tune of $5 billion annually (which the Postal Service has defaulted on for the last four years and is expected to again this year).
All this while the USPS is still required to provide universal mail service to every American home and business without a dime of taxpayer support.
Amid the gathering clouds, there are some bright spots. Operating revenue grew 1.3% and package volume was up 14.4% in the second quarter. But the Postal Service still finds itself in a $90 billion hole.
“It’s not sustainable,” Brennan said in her first extensive interview since becoming Postmaster General. “Any accountant knows that 35 cents in assets for every dollar in liabilities is just not sustainable,” a basic economics lesson she’s shared with the American Catalog Mailers and other key stakeholders in her first months on the job.