“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” These words, engraved on the James Farley Post Office in New York City, are mistakenly believed by many to be the motto of the US Postal Services. The fact is, almost unique among federal agencies, USPS has no motto. And, that is probably a good thing, given its recent announcement of plans to close about 1,000 post offices nationwide.
With a projected deficit of $7 billion in 2009, and an even larger one forecast for 2010, it appears that finances is doing what the weather can’t -“staying the post office from the swift completion of its appointed rounds.”
Earlier this year, USPS began a review of some 3,200 of its 37,000 post offices. About 1,000 of those studies will be reviewed further for possible closure. Factors that will figure in the decision to give a facility the axe are volume of mail, proximity to other post offices, and potential savings.
USPS was recently added to the Government Accountability Office’s high-risk list, as an agency badly in need of an overhaul. According to GAO, the service also needs to close some of its 400 mail processing facilities, many of which are operating at only 50 percent of capacity.
No one can argue that USPS is in dire financial straits. Even with planned cuts of $8 billion this year, it is expected to be $7 billion in the red and with bigger losses next year. Although Congress has pressed USPS to consolidate operations to cut costs, individual Members of Congress sing a different tune when the facility to be cut is in their district. Postal employee unions also lobby to block certain closures.
If we are to continue to have a national mail service in this country, we have to support USPS efforts to reform and trim costs. But, these efforts have to be meaningful. Underutilized processing facilities have to be looked at along with the lowly local post office. USPS is already struggling to compete with commercial mail delivery services. If it continues to teeter on the brink of insolvency, cutting service without really averting financial loss, it is likely to go the way of the dinosaur; and that would be a tragedy.
The “not in my backyard” attitude of unions and politicians, while it might save individual facilities, could ultimately doom them all. The unofficial saying, which might be engraved over the door of the last post office to be closed and turned into a museum, might go something like this:
“Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night, but lack of economic might has closed at last the final door. The Postal Service is no more.”
“Federal Times,” vol. 45, No. 22, August 3, 2009. USPS may close 1,000 post offices.
http://www.usps.com/ You will note that USPS makes no reference to the planned closings in the news section of its web site.