It seems like Wall Street financial institutions are not the only firms with a history of crisis and need for assistance from the U.S. government. Enter stage right, the U.S. Postal Service.  An article in the New York Times reports that postmaster general John E. Potter has indicated that the agency will run out of money this year unless it gets help.  “We are facing losses of historic proportion“, states Mr. Potter, “Our situation is critical“. 

This situation comes as no surprise.  The Postal Service has been a budgetary “train wreck” for many years, relying on continual rate increases to compensate for many structural problems.  Now, the agency is seeking permission to cut delivery schedules to five days from the current six.  Mr. Potter also indicates that even if the agency manages to implement planned cuts of $5.9 billion this year, which include early retirement of workers and the closing of six district offices, there still could be a another $6 billion deficit in 2010.

To solve the financial crisis on Wall Street, we look to  the Treasury Secretary and the Chairmen of the Federal Reserve to come up with oversight plans.  To solve the problem of the U.S. automobile industry, a presidential auto task force has been formed to evaluate the situation and make recommendations, some structural in nature.

Time is long overdue for a task force to address the U.S. Postal Service.  In my opinion, it needs to be populated with seasoned, experienced transportation and logistics experts, as well as lean-sigma and productivity experts from the private sector.  This task force should have the autonomy to transcend the usual Congressional special interests and political maneuvering and drive new thinking for this agency. I hasten to add that the agenda may not necessarily be privatization, since that model has proven to be not so stellar from past administrations. Rather, the objective should be how to bring the postal service to world-class standards of efficiency and delivery, similar to a FedEx, UPS, or any major 4PL logistics provider

The U.S. needs a vibrant, effective and efficient postal service, and the present course is unsustainable. Rather than waiting for this financial wreck to crash, let’s take more proactive actions.

What’s your view?  Should the U.S. Postal Service be awarded additional subsidies without a comprehensive re-organization plan predicated on world-class standards?  Share your views in the Comments section for this posting.

 Bob Ferrari