The new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who has an extensive background in logistics and operations, recently detailed new changes that will cut costs to help keep the United States Postal Service (USPS) viable. As a result, this has revived Congress’s interest in postal reform. For the past few decades, our federal lawmakers have attempted to pass legislation to improve the USPS operations, but Congress may now be more focused on this issue given the likelihood of increased mail-in ballots for the upcoming presidential election.
Postal reform is long overdue, but Congress needs to pass smart policies that will allow the USPS to operate efficiently for decades, not just until the end of the year. The USPS has struggled to keep up with the business needs of the modern era. Standard paper mail has quickly been replaced by online marketing and email. According to the Inspector General of the United States Postal Service, “the average number of pieces of single-piece First-Class Mail sent by American adults may have fallen 70 percent since 1996.”
Private companies such as Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and others have adapted to the new marketplace by having the flexibility to change their services to better suit their customers’ needs. Online retailers have emerged as the top customers for shipping and delivery companies. Unlike standard mail, online retailers ship all different-sized boxes and packages that are offered at market price, but since the USPS is managed by government bureaucracy, it’s more difficult for the agency to stay competitive with private companies.
Now that Congress is pressed to quickly address postal reform, managerial flexibility must be included to give the USPS the ability to adapt to the changing economy. The USPS is currently overseen by the Postal Regulatory Commission and the Board of Governors, who are similar to a private companies’ board of directors. The Board of Governors controls the daily operation and postal rates, and the Postal Regulatory Commission oversees postal rates and has the authority to reject or implement USPS proposals.
The current bureaucratic, legislative, and regulatory procedures have stifled the USPS’s ability to compete with private companies. All officials who manage the USPS are selected by the president of the United States and then confirmed by the Senate. As our elected leaders are continually changing, it’s difficult to guarantee that the Board of Governors will be appointed based on their managerial expertise rather than political reasons.
Decisions made by the Board of Governors that are influenced by political interests instead of the best interest of the agency do nothing but hinder America’s oldest agency. For the USPS to operate more effectively, the Board of Governors must be de-politicized and be given the managerial flexibility over USPS products, operations, and personnel to quickly meet market demands as they change. This will increase the speed at which the USPS can compete in the marketplace and offer their customers a better service at a lower cost.
But oversight is still important, and USPS reform should not completely remove it from the agency. Legislative action needs to maintain some regulatory oversight to avoid marketplace dominance, and the Postal Regulatory Commission needs to continue to ensure transparency.
The United States Postal Service is an essential government-run service that customers depend on for business operations. But like every industry, evolution and adaptation are necessary to stay viable in the evolving marketplace. The Postmaster General is right to change the Postal Service’s operation for their long-term success. Let’s hope Congress makes smart policy decisions to help this mission.
Jesse Grady attends Maryland Law, is a former Regional Field Director for the Texas GOP, and a former staff member of President Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign.