Senator Tom Carper today used the confirmation hearing for PRC nominee Tony Hammond to deliver a sharp rebuke to the Commission for its slow pace in coming up with advisory opinions, starting with the inconclusive decision on five day delivery, a year in the making, and continuing with the current USPS proposal for network redesign. The PRC doesn’t expect to deliver that opinion until well after the USPS has started implementation.
In the past, I’ve made no secret of my concerns about the Commission’s ability to fulfill its statutory role in addressing the Postal Service’s financial challenges. I’ve called on the Commission to speed up and improve the quality of its work on advisory opinions. The Commission’s opinion on the advisability of the Postal Service’s proposal didn’t appear for about a year and, in a lot of ways, created more questions than it answered.
We’re unfortunately now facing problems with another advisory opinion, this one involving proposed changes to the overnight delivery standard and mail processing facility closures. The Commission has indicated that it will not issue an advisory opinion on the Postal Service’s proposals until the summer. The Postal Service, meanwhile, has a right to act sooner and plans to act in May.
I recognize that there are a number of procedural hurdles the Commission must get past before issuing an advisory opinion. It’s unclear to me, however, why commissioners are unable to release even some preliminary findings before May. I don’t want the Commission to put out bad work or to just rubber stamp the Postal Service’s plan; I just want them to be heard, and for the Postal Service and Congress to have the benefit of their analysis and opinions before a major change in service is implemented.
The Postal Service says it is acting on its plans in May because it urgently needs to begin making adjustments to its network before the fall, when mail volumes will ramp up due to the holiday season and the upcoming elections. I want to see the same sense of urgency from the Commission as it goes about its business in the coming weeks and months. Otherwise, I fear that the legitimacy and the role of the Commission in these matters could be threatened.