House puts damper on USPS plan for 5-day delivery

Thursday - 3/7/2013, 4:15pm EST

The House didn't grant the U.S. Postal Service's wish to move to five-day-a-week delivery.

The fiscal 2013 spending bill approved Wednesday didn't mention any change to the six-day-a-week mail delivery mandate, so therefore the requirement remains in effect, said Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee.

USPS had hoped Congress would give the service the flexibility to change how often its employees deliver first-class mail. In February, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe made his case publicly and privately that the service could no longer afford to deliver first class mail six days a week. Donahoe said cutting back by one day a week would help USPS deal with its almost $16 billion deficit.

"Regarding yesterday's House action, we don't have any comment specific to that," said USPS spokesman David Partenheimer in an email statement. "However, we would like to emphasize again that our new delivery plan is a responsible and reasonable approach to address our urgent financial situation and America's changing mailing habits. Independent market research and polling shows strong public support for the new delivery schedule in communities across the country. The Postal Service is losing $25 million per day and must close a projected $20 billion gap by 2016 or risk becoming a long-term burden to the American taxpayers. The new delivery schedule would save approximately $2 billion annually once fully implemented and would be a significant step towards improving our financial stability." USPS still plans to move to five-day-a-week delivery starting Aug. 5 despite the setback in the House.

All hope isn't lost

The Senate still could add a provision letting USPS move to five-day-a-week delivery to its version of the spending bill. Then the two chambers would have come to an agreement during a conference. But Senate support for the change has been lukewarm.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, continues to encourage Congress to pass postal reform.

"We need to act so that the Postal Service can save itself. We don't' need to bail them out. We need to let them act as a real company. The situation is dire, but it's not hopeless," Carper said on the Senate floor earlier this year. "They need to be able to address, as the auto industry did, too many people. They need to be able to close and consolidate some post offices and co-locate those services in places it makes more sense for consumers, and they need to be able to close some of their mail processing centers."

Carper has yet to reintroduce postal reform legislation during this session of Congress.

The 2013 spending bill, which keeps funding for most civilian agencies at fiscal 2012 levels, does include prohibitions against agencies spending money for more than 50 employees going to a conference outside the United States.

The House also gave the Defense Department $50.1 million for the Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund.

The Veterans Affairs Department would get $3.3 billion for technology systems, of which not more than 25 percent may be obligated until the the committees on Appropriations approve the DoD-VA Interagency Program Office's expenditure plan that:

  • Defines the budget and cost baseline for development of the integrated Electronic Health Record

  • Identifies the deployment timeline for the system for both agencies

  • Breaks out annual and total spending for each department

  • Relays detailed cost-sharing business rules

  • Establishes data standardization schedules between the departments

  • Is reviewed by the Government Accountability Office

  • Complies with the acquisition rules, requirements, guidelines, and systems acquisition management practices of the federal government.

The Homeland Security Department would receive $1.1 billion for cyber initiatives, including $328 million for network-security deployment and $218 million for Federal Network Security to establish and sustain essential cybersecurity activities, including the procurement and operation of continuous monitoring and diagnostics systems as well as intrusion-detection systems for civilian federal computer networks.

The House wants DHS within 15 days to submit an updated expenditure plan for these cybersecurity activities.

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