As 2022 came to a close, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was interviewed by Government Executive to get his opinions about progress in implementing his 10-year Plan.
For DeJoy, 2023 is the “Year of Implementation” when many of the operational changes he’s been planning finally are put in place and, presumably, begin to deliver the efficiencies and cost savings that he promised in his Plan.
Whether the steps toward implementation are as nailed down as might be expected is another matter. As he told the reporter, “A lot of people say they don’t know exactly what we’re doing. Well, neither do I.” DeJoy was quoted as saying he’s going to “make a lot of mistakes,” explaining those as simply because he’s “willing to adapt.” Not exactly confidence-building comments from a PMG who preaches “precision” and brooks no disagreement.
DeJoy rests his comfort with mistakes on the level of visibility in postal operations he now believes is in place. As he assured Government Executive about expected mistakes,
“We also have visibility, we catch them now, and we react to them. And that was not here. And that’s the beginning of a well run operational services organization. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
As much as having a way to catch and correct mistakes might be a useful resource to have, some might argue that a less headstrong leader would be more deliberate in advance rather than simply driving forward impatiently, hoping to fix errors on the fly that had been funded by ratepayers.
Time for Results
The writer characterized 2023 appropriately as “a pivotal year” for DeJoy’s Plan as it enters its third year.
So far, DeJoy’s only widely acknowledged success is the use of his political connections to secure passage of the Postal Reform At of 2022.
Conversely, outside his finance department, there’s little support for his strategy of improving USPS finances by aggressively raising prices. Though DeJoy had promised to be “judicious” in using the greater pricing authority provided by a 2020 Postal Regulatory Commission decision, few would agree that’s what’s happened. Echoing what may be the opinion of most ratepayers, PostCom President Mike Plunkett commented, “That’s not my definition of judicious.”
As the article noted, despite vowing to cut costs and grow revenue, many in the mailing community fear DeJoy’s myopic push for revenue (not cost reduction) is driving away business. As Plunkett noted, “Any improvement from the financials so far has come through rate increases.”
In other interviews, DeJoy has expressed a belief that the loss of hard-copy mail is inevitable, saying he’s “not going to chase it.” Those whose business depends on such mail may rightly find it disturbing that the head of an organization generating most of its income from hard-copy mail has written it off as not deserving of effort to preserve it. Instead, DeJoy believes his agency’s financial future rests on packages.
He also sees cost savings in “improving facility conditions, making the flow of mail more logical, rerouting letter carriers... to consolidated sorting centers, adding equipment to boost package processing capacity and generally shifting from a scattered network to a fully integrated one.”
Though DeJoy admits the transformation “will take years” he says it “will get underway in earnest in 2023.” However, as the article’s writer noted,
“There remain serious questions about whether his reforms will produce the savings he has promised – previous efforts to consolidate facilities led USPS to perform worse while realizing just a tiny fraction of the cost reductions it had anticipated.”
The article concluded that DeJoy sees his work as defining his legacy.
“If he pulls it off, if he can cut inefficiencies while boosting on-time mail delivery and eliminating annual deficits, it will go a long way to reversing the narrative that has defined much of his tenure. If he fails, it could cement his reputation as a conservative, private sector magnate incapable of recognizing USPS’ value as a public service.”
What DeJoy may not realize – or care about – is that if his Plan fails, it’s the commercial mailing industry, postal ratepayers, and average customers who will be left to deal with the results. His reputation may suffer, but the people who depend on mail and the USPS for their livelihoods likely will suffer more.
Leo Raymond is Owner and Managing Director at Mailers Hub LLC.
This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2023 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.