Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Wednesday defended parts of what will likely be included in a 10-year strategy to save the struggling agency, including a cost-cutting measure that would expand delivery times and move more first-class mail from planes to trucks.
Testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the U.S. Postal Service chief blamed air carriers for poor service during 2020, particularly during the end-of-year holidays.
“That [air] network over the last year has been performing at a 55% to 70% [on-time] rate, and that is a big reason for a lot of our failure, especially through the Christmas holiday,” DeJoy told Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. “We’ve had packages — which are not even included in that statistic — being held up at air facilities across the country. It is not reliable.”
Raskin pressured DeJoy on the logic of eliminating two- to three-day mail delivery and moving to a three- to five-day service window. “How will that improve the appeal and resiliency of the post office?”
“The appeal of the Postal Service will survive the minor changes” that will be included in the 10-year strategy, DeJoy responded. “In our strategy, if we in fact get the relief that we need in terms of [added delivery] time, we will put more mail on the ground.”
The purpose of the hearing was to review legislation introduced last week meant to rescue the Postal Service from what DeJoy at the hearing called a “death spiral.” The current draft includes a provision to repeal a requirement that the Postal Service pre-fund retiree health care as well as performance standard requirements.
“Absent substantial changes, our financial losses will continue to widen, and our ability to invest in the future of the organization will be severely curtailed,” DeJoy testified. “We are forecasted to lose $160 billion over the next 10 years, with a negative cash balance of the same size.”
Asked if he thought using third-party logistics companies to share the work of the agency could help financially, DeJoy said he wasn’t a fan.
“I think in many ways it has enabled people to run around the network, and is part of the reason we have a hollowed-out network,” he said. “We only deliver 35% of the packages to the American community right now, and I think we have an opportunity to grow that and serve the people, and having partnerships with commercial businesses [such as retailers] and being fully integrated with them … is a big opportunity for us.”
Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., confronted DeJoy on plans to remain postmaster general, given calls by Democrats that President Joe Biden replace him and the rest of the Postal Service board. Political opposition to DeJoy intensified last year when service from the agency began to deteriorate shortly after he took the reins.
“I’m not a political appointee; I was selected by a bipartisan board of governors. I appreciate if you get that straight,” DeJoy responded. “Get used to me. As far as my commitment to see our plan through, I’m here until I can see the tangibly produced results we intend to see. I believe the board is committed to that.”
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