Alliance Alert–Inspector General Report on USPS Operational Changes this Summer


October 20, 2020

The USPS Office of Inspector General released its anticipated report in response to Congressional questions about the operational changes implemented since Postmaster General DeJoy started in mid-June.  It finds poor leadership, implementation, and communications, but not a deliberate attempt to slow down mail.  An over-eager combination of three major Postmaster General initiatives combined with 57 individual operations cost-saving programs was hastily implemented during a pandemic just prior to a record vote-by-mail national election.  No analysis was done on the potential impact on delivery service times of this novel combination of factors.  The OIG also found that USPS and the PMG followed legal requirements.

From the report:


In June and July 2020, Postal Service operations executives initiated various significant cost reduction strategies on top of three initiatives the Postmaster General launched to achieve financial targets. No analysis of the service impacts of these various changes was conducted and documentation and guidance to the field for these strategies was very limited and almost exclusively oral. The resulting confusion and inconsistency in operations at postal facilities compounded the significant negative service impacts across the country.


Although the Postal Service followed applicable legal and policy requirements regarding notification of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), these requirements are limited. We also found that documentation of the operational changes provided to Congress and customers was generally accurate but incomplete. Information the OIG reviewed to date indicates that Mr. DeJoy has met the ethics requirements related to disclosure, recusal, and divestment.


The three initiatives by the PMG are described as:


  • Elimination of late and extra trips to transport mail. Started July 10, 2020, this initiative was to eliminate all late and extra trips outside of regularly scheduled transportation service.
  • Organization Restructure: On August 7, 2020, the Postmaster General announced a reorganization of field operations and headquarters functions to align functions based on core business operations.
  • Expedited Street Afternoon Sortation (ESAS): This initiative began as a pilot program at 384 facilities nationwide on July 25, 2020, and was designed to eliminate excessive pre- and post-tour overtime.


The cost reduction strategies implemented by operations executives were described:


In addition to these three changes, Postal Service operations executives outlined 57 initiatives to achieve FY 2021 financial targets and reduce workhours, one of which matched the Postmaster General’s strategies (Late/Extra Trips). These operational change initiatives were developed to achieve an estimated 64 million workhour savings.


These initiatives undertaken individually may not have been significant. However, launching all of these efforts at once, in addition to the changes instituted by the Postmaster General, had a significant impact on the Postal Service. According to the Chief Operating Officer, these 57 strategies constituted “transformational changes” in Postal Service operations. Termed “Do It Now FY Strategies,” these initiatives outlined changes from current operations in each function including mail processing, vehicle and maintenance, and post office operations (delivery and retail). They included eliminating pre-tour overtime in city delivery operations, elimination of certain mail processing operations on Saturday, and alignment of clerk workhours to workload. Although these initiatives were generated from and executed by operations executives, the initiatives were discussed at an introductory meeting with the new Postmaster General on July 7, 2020.


One of the 57 initiatives – the removal of mail processing equipment – was in progress prior to July 2020, but the pace of removals was accelerated beginning in June 2020. Specifically, removal of letter and flat processing machines across the country increased from an average of 375 removals a year from FY 2015 to FY 2019. Between October 2019 and August of 2020, 712 letter and flat processing machines were reduced – 437 (61 percent) of these machines were removed from June to August 2020, and 325 of these were Delivery Barcode Sorters. We also noted that while removing under-utilized collection boxes occurs each year based on an annual density study, collection box removals significantly exceeded the average annual removals in two of the seven geographic areas of the country in July 2020.


Impact of Operational Changes


The collective results of these initiatives, combined with the ongoing employee availability challenges resulting from the pandemic, negatively impacted the quality and timeliness of mail delivery nationally. The Postal Service’s mail service performance significantly dropped beginning in July 2020, directly corresponding to implementation of the operational changes and initiatives.


The report notes that service had bounced back in early September, albeit not all the way.


Read full report