DeJoy’s latest USPS restructuring plan could increase bureaucracy and slow delivery, experts warn

Under the new plan, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post, each of those categories will receive a redrawn map of the agency’s new 50 mailing districts, tracts of Zip codes for which local post offices are responsible. That’s down from 67 districts previously. But not all of the geographic divisions align among the new maps distributed to the operations departments, which has led to worries among postal experts and mailing industry officials of a new level of red tape.

“My reading is that it seems to overcomplicate some of the field relationships in the way that different parts of the network execute exchanges with one another,” said Michael Plunkett, president and chief executive of PostCom, a national postal commerce advocacy group. “This appears like you’re just reshuffling the deck, but you’re still going to get the same cards at the end.”

To grease the wheels for the restructuring, the Postal Service announced Wednesday that it will offer early retirement to tens of thousands of employees with at least 20 years of service. The offers will not include retirement incentives. Employees with duplicate positions in the consolidated districts would be reassigned.

DeJoy said in the news release that the new geographic organizations and the early retirements “will strengthen our mission and commitment to serve the American people by improving efficiency and streamlining decision-making throughout the organization.” He also argued that pairing heavier investments with improved operational and business strategies will help the Postal Service toward financial sustainability.

DeJoy this summer initiated his first round of operations changes, which included cuts to overtime hours and bans on late and extra dispatch and delivery trips, important mechanisms for timely delivery in the highly variable mail system. That prompted struggles this summer. Those issues worsened over the holiday season, when record-setting package volumes and workforce coronavirus infections created staggering backlogs. At the end of December, only 38 percent of nonlocal first-class mail was delivered on-time, compared with close to 90 percent the year before.

Service has recovered some in 2021. DeJoy testified to a House panel last week that on-time first-class mail performance was up to 80 percent. The Postal Service aims to deliver 96 percent of those items on time.

The restructuring will also mean less transparency from the Postal Service on performance, at least in the short term. The agency told the Postal Regulatory Commission on Tuesday that because the geographic restructuring has already taken effect, it would need two extra weeks to provide its first-quarter service report for on-time delivery data since it is stored in legacy computer systems.

The Postal Service in its deadline extension notification also asked the commission to stop requesting certain types of performance data because it is “not only burdensome for the Postal Service, but also counterproductive, because it steers limited agency resources away from the focus at hand, which is improving service performance based on the Postal Service’s existing lines of responsibility.”

DeJoy, a former logistics executive and major Republican fundraiser, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee last week that he was set to roll out the rest of his restructuring plan for the Postal Service by the end of March. That plan will include longer delivery times and higher prices, according to three people briefed on the details. DeJoy told the panel that he was considering both.

“Does it make a difference if it’s an extra day to get a letter?” he said. “Because something has to change.”

Democrats on the committee ridiculed those proposals. Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) called them a “surrender” in the face of delivery difficulties.

“I’m really concerned that this plan may neither be strategic nor a plan,” said Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.).

“I am disappointed that Postmaster DeJoy has, once again, made significant operational changes at the Postal Service without consulting Congress, especially since he testified before the Oversight Committee just last week,” Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday. “Making these changes in the midst of a pandemic could well disrupt service performance, just as the changes made last summer did.”

Under DeJoy’s predecessor, Megan Brennan, the Postal Service’s operations staff reported to the same executive vice president — chief operating officer David E. Williams — who retired last month. When DeJoy shuffled the agency’s top ranks in August, less than two months after taking office, he separated those departments, put Williams in charge of logistics, eliminated the position of delivery operations vice president held by 40-year Postal Service employee Kevin McAdams and elevated Kristin Seaver, then the chief information officer, to chief of retail and delivery.

Though routine for a new postmaster general to make personnel changes, that restructuring was seen by many in the mailing industry as a way to consolidate authority around DeJoy by requiring arms of the agency to communicate with one another through the postmaster general.

“Our business is not silo-driven,” said one person with deep knowledge of the leadership team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide a candid assessment. Mail-sorting “plants don’t run independent of the other sides of the business.”

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