Monday, August 24, 2020

At hearing with postmaster general, internal USPS report details slower delivery of first-class mail and periodicals

Chart from U.S. Postal Service internal report; note that bottom line of chart is 75 percent, exaggerating recent change.
This story may be updated.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the head of the board that hired him are testifying today before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. This hearing covering much of the same ground as the one held Friday by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, but it has new information: an internal performance report leaked to Democrats who run the House panel.

The report showed that "on time" delivery of first-class mail was down about 8 percent since DeJoy's arrival, and "on time" delivery of periodicals was down 9.57%, with internal processing time down 6.49%. Rural newspapers have periodical mailing permits and rely on the Postal Service for delivery of much or most of their circulation.

Postal Service internal report, with bottom line at 65 percent; for a larger version of either image, click on it.

Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., noted that even greater declines in on-time performance were recorded in 2012 under "the Obama-Biden administration," a term used by other Republicans on the committee. The White House has no direct control over the Postal Service; the president appoints its Board of Governors, which oversees the service and hires the postmaster general. The board has 11 seats, six of which are filled, all by President Trump; four are Republicans.

Board of Governors Chair Mike Duncan also testified before the House panel, by remote. Duncan, a longtime Republican activist and banker from Inez, Ky., said in his opening statement, "I spent my life in rural Appalachia and I know how important the Postal Service is to communities like mine." 

Duncan said picking a new postmaster general was the most important job the board would have, and "a transformational leader" was needed. He said an "organized, deliberate and thorough search process" picked the fifth postmaster general from the private sector, someone who was experienced in logistics and had been a major USPS contractor for over 25 years. The vote was unanimous.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that DeJoy, a major Trump contributor, "was hired after a methodical campaign by Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to ensure a Republican takeover of the agency’s Board of Governors, depleted for years and with no members when Trump took office. The president has long fixated on the Postal Service, complaining without evidence that it gives preferential treatment and money-losing terms to Amazon," whose founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, owns the Post.

Quoting an unnamed "person familiar with Mnuchin’s efforts," the Post reported that the Treasury secretary "urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to vet potential nominees through his caucus." Duncan "met with Mnuchin, the person said, and the secretary made clear his plan to oust [Postmaster General] Brennan. Duncan was hesitant, the person said, but not opposed. 'He wanted backup,' the person said."

The Treasury Department "rejected any allegations of untoward, partisan behavior, saying that Mnuchin met with governors as part of his effort to ensure sound governance at the Postal Service, which is his responsibility" because it got a $10 billion reasury loan under Brennan, the Post reported. DeJoy, asked in the hearing what discussions he had with Mnuchin, said they were "high level," about "controlling costs and growing revenue." Later, he said "Mr. Mnuchin had nothing to do with my selection . . . I talked with him after I accepted the offer," and didn't solicit the offer.

Duncan, asked why DeJoy was added to the potential hiring pool of 14 interviewees when he was not in the original list of 53 possible hires forwarded by a search firm, said his part-time board's search was slowed by holidays and the pandemic, and "It was during that period of time that Mr. Dejoy's availability became known to me." He said later, "I gave Mr DeJoy’s name as a candidate, as I did with other candidates."

That question was asked in combination with another question, why Duncan and the board didn't grant the request of then-Vice Chair David Williams, a former postal inspector general, for a background check of DeJoy when he was added to the interviews. Duncan didn't respond immediately to that. Williams resigned from the board in April, in protest of Mnuchin's involvement. DeJoy said he underwent a background check before taking the job.

Earlier, Duncan told the committee that the postal governors "represent the public interest" and he has twice told Congress that the service's business model is broken. He said that model can't be fixed without action by Congress. Duncan is a member of the national advisory board of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog. For more on him, see this story by Morgan Watkins of the Louisville Courier Journal.

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