Key Senator Asks for Details of Network Changes

As regular readers know, the Postal Service’s ongoing measures to implement elements of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s 10-Year Plan seldom are revealed directly to ratepayers or commercial mail producers.

Rather, because of contractual obligations, information about facility changes and other matters having a potential impact on unionized employees is presented to the labor groups.  In turn, that information is often shared with the media and industry websites, such as Save the Post Office, and in turn disseminated more broadly.

This lack of transparency has caused concerns for at least one influential legislator who, in response, has written to the Postmaster General asking for information.  In a December 5 letter, Sen. Gary Peters (MI), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, expressed his concerns over the lack of transparency shown by the USPS in implementing the 10-Year Plan’s initiatives. The full text of Peters’ letter is shown below:

Dear Postmaster General DeJoy:

I write to request details about the US Postal Service’s (USPS) planned and ongoing implementation of changes to its network, including additional information on the scope of these plans and their associated impacts.  I urge the Postal Service to fully study the impacts of its plans, provide transparency, and comply with oversight from the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) and USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG).  In line with the Postal Service’s mission of reliably serving every community, it is essential to ensure full transparency about these plans and ensure any changes will not adversely impact service.

USPS previewed potential changes to network in its ten-year strategic plan (“Delivering for America”) and subsequent communications.  Since then, USPS has gradually released additional details about a long-term plan for changes to its nationwide processing and delivery operations network (hereinafter “the Network Plan”), and has begun to implement changes including moving processing operations within and between facilities.  The plan includes moving local processing operations in some areas from “Delivery Units” (often co-located with post offices) into new and more centralized “Sorting and Delivery Centers,” as well as transferring some operations at regional facilities (particularly package processing) to nearby facilities, with the stated goal of improving efficiency and service.  USPS has said this plan will not entail closure of post offices or result in employee layoffs, and has committed to not reducing any retail services.

USPS indicated it would study and continuously monitor the impacts of initial changes before moving forward with the plan.  However, USPS has already moved forward with changes to over 25 facilities and is studying more than 160 facilities for future changes.  These changes are occurring at an accelerated pace, with new details emerging intermittently for USPS customers and employees.  I am concerned about the pace of these changes and urge USPS to provide full transparency on its plans moving forward.  It is essential that USPS study and disclose details about the impacts of any changes, including impacts on service.  I urge the Postal Service to fully study the impacts of early facility changes before moving forward with plans.  I also urge USPS to fully cooperate with oversight of its network plans, including the PRC’s and OIG’s independent inquiries.

I request that USPS respond to the following questions by February 5, 2024, to provide additional transparency on the Network Plan and its impacts:

1. Please explain in detail how USPS has assessed the projected service impacts of these network changes.  USPS has said it holistically evaluated various factors and data prior to executing each facility change.  How is the Postal Service studying potential or projected service impacts before execution of each facility change?

a. Please provide details on any data that support the service projections.  Explain in detail which data USPS has analyzed prior to executing changes and provide examples.

2. Please explain how much time USPS has taken to evaluate actual service impacts at facilities where USPS implemented changes.  USPS indicated that it has collected service performance data at facility sites after implementing changes.  Please send available service performance data for implemented sites.

a. USPS implemented 14 Sorting and Delivery Center (S&DC) facilities by June 2023, and 7 more by September (3 months later).  It appears the time between rounds of implemented sites is too short to draw statistically meaningful conclusions about the extent of the service impacts.  Why has USPS moved forward with additional rounds of S&DC implementation, before receiving more service data to make conclusions about past rounds?

3. USPS has stated the overall goal of this plan is to achieve service excellence and financial sustainability.  How is USPS calculating any associated financial impacts of these facility changes (new costs and savings), and how is it measuring projections against results? Please explain the methodology used and factors analyzed.

4. Why has USPS not released a full list of facilities under review for possible future changes (including for S&DCs, Local Processing Centers, and Regional Processing & Distribution Centers)?

a. Please provide a full list of all facilities USPS is targeting for implementation in 2024, including those still under review, and expected timelines for continued study.

5. Please provide a complete list of all impact studies USPS has completed on its Network Plan as a whole, including service impacts, community impacts, and employee impacts.

6. In deciding where to move forward with plans, USPS has conducted reviews of potential facility sites, considering factors such as delivery route impacts, employee commute times, sequence of mail and package flows, staffing impacts, and financial rigor.  Please provide a list of all factors USPS has studied prior to moving forward with changes.

7. How has USPS assessed the Network Plan’s potential and actual impacts on employees?  Please list any employee conditions USPS expects to change, as well as impact assessments USPS has completed.

a. USPS has committed that there will be no employee layoffs as part of its plan.  Does the Network Plan assume any net impact on job numbers due to the planned changes (compared to status quo), including jobs reduced by attrition?

b. Changes associated with S&DCs may alter local employees’ commute to work.  What are the average changes in commute time for employees, and what are the outliers (range)?

8. USPS asserts it has communicated regularly with employee groups about its plans.  It is important to involve employees in discussions of tentative plans, before such plans are final.  What is the earliest notification USPS provides to local employees about a potential facility change?

a. USPS is currently evaluating more than 100 new S&DC locations.  Has USPS involved employee groups in the evaluation process for these potential changes?  Will USPS commit to sharing early lists of potential changes and incorporating employee groups’ feedback?

9. USPS has stated that as individual facility work progresses, it may be prudent to change plans if unanticipated events develop.  How is USPS evaluating the need to change plans?  Would USPS stop progression of the Network Plan and reassess if it observes unintended adverse impacts on service, customers, or employees?

Many observers would propose that it would be unwise for a government agency, especially one overseen by the committee chaired by the letter-writer, to respond with rhetorical puffery instead of exactly what was asked of it.

However, given that the PMG likes to ensure the Postal Service stays on message – his message – it’s a good bet that whatever the Postal Service writes in response to Peters will be more of its usual carefully crafted blather about what was wrong with the Postal Service and how complete implementation of the 10-Year Plan is the only solution.

Beyond that, it will repeatedly state how it’s carefully studying and evaluating, using a methodical approach, and adjusting as needed.  It will use the word “efficiency” when explaining what it’s doing to transportation, processing, and delivery, and likely will reiterate DeJoy’s plaint about unnecessary transportation and empty trucks.

Peters will be told how The Plan’s changes will be good for employees and customers, and preclude any future business failure that would require Congressional help.  He’ll also be assured that service is great, that most deliveries are made with service standards (omitting that those have been relaxed), and told about “2.5 days to deliver.”

Unless the USPS response contains straightforward facts, figures, and answers, Peters and members of the committee he leads will hopefully not accept what DeJoy is more likely to send and, unlike the USPS governors, hold him accountable for how he’s running the Postal Service.

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