(September 12, 2014) Just about everyone agrees the U.S. Postal Service must change the way it does business.
It’s not hard to see why: In 1970, Congress overhauled what was then known as the Post Office to create USPS, allowing it to operate independently from the rest of the federal government and requiring it to break even financially each year. However, the Postal Service has recorded a loss in 21 of the last 23 quarters.
Ten years ago the agency annually delivered 60 billion pieces of first-class mail — USPS’ most profitable offering, consisting of normal letters and bill payments — while today it delivers about one-third of that total. Postal management estimates that yearly figure will continue to slide until it bottoms out around 5 billion or 6 billion pieces. Formerly the nation’s largest employer, the Postal Service has cut nearly 300,000 jobs since its peak in the late 1980s.
USPS still delivers to 153 million addresses in every town in America and is the backbone of a $1.3 trillion mailing industry, representing 8.6 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Through rain, sleet, snow or dire financial instability, every single American can still expect a visit from a mail carrier six days each week.
Postal management, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, labor unions, the mailing industry and the Obama administration all agree on the need for congressional reforms to keep the agency – which still brought in $66 billion in revenue last year — afloat. But there is very little agreement among those groups about what those reforms should look like.
In a series of recent interviews conducted by Government Executive, lawmakers and stakeholders wove a diverse and fragmented tapestry of priorities and solutions to fix the cash-strapped Postal Service, with the only common threads found in the need for change at all.