94th Congress m COMMITTEE PRINT COMMITTEE
2d Session 1 P PRINT No. 94-12
SUBCOMMITTEE STAFF REPORT ON THE UNIhTED STATES POSTAL SERVICE'S
NATIONAL BULK MAIL SYSTEM
SUBCOMMITTEE ON POSTAL FACILITIES, MAIL, AND LABOR MANAGEMENT OF THE
COMMITTEE ON POST OFFICE AND
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MARCH 25, 1976 % 4"
Printed for the use of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 8-323 WASHINGTON : 1976
COMMITTEE ON POST OFFICE AND CIVIL SERVICE
DAVID N. HENDERSON, North Carolina, Chairman
MORRIS K. UDALL, Arizona, Vice Chairman DOMINICK V. DANIELS, New Jersey EDWARD J. DERWINSKI, Illinois
ROBERT N. C. NIX, Pennsylvania ALBERT W. JOHNSON, Pennsylvania
JAMES M. HANLEY, New York JOHN H. ROUSSELOT, California
CHARLES H. WILSON, California ANDREW J. HINSHAW, California
RICHARD C. WHITE, Texas .TAMES M. COLLINS, Texas
WILLIAM D. FORD, Michigan GENE TAYLOR, Missouri
WILLIAM (BILL) CLAY, Missouri BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York,
PATRICIA SCHROEDER, Colorado ROBIN L. BEARD, Tennessee
WILLIAM LEHMAN, Florida TRENT LOTT, Mississippi
GLADYS N. SPELLMAN, Maryland STEPHEN L. NEAL, North Carolina HERBERT E. HARRIS, Virginia WILLIAM M. BRODHEAD, Michigan PAUL SIMON, Illinois NORMAN Y. MINETA, California JOHN W. JENRETTE, JR., South Carolina 9TEPHEN J. SOLARZ, New York
JOHN H. MARTIN, Chief Counsel VICTOR C. SMIROLDO, Staff Director and Counsel THEODORE J. KAZY, Associate Staff Director ROBERT E. LOCKHART, Counsel Roy C. MESKER, Senior Staff Assistant JAMES PIERCE MYERS, Assistant Counsel DAVID MINTON, Associate Counsel
SUBCOMMITTEE ON POSTAL FACILITIES, MAIL, AND LABOR MANAGEMENT
CHARLES H. WILSON, California, Chairman
ROBERT N. C. NIX, Pennsylvania ANDREW J. HINSHAW, California
WILLIAM (BILL) CLAY, Missouri ROBIN L. BEARD, Tennessee
PATRICIA SCHROEDER, Colorado WILLIAM M. BRODHEAD, Michigan PAUL SIMON, Illinois Ex Officio Voting Members
DAVID N. HENDERSON, North Carolina EDWARD J. DERWINSKI, Illinois (GEORGE B. GOULD, Subcommittee Staff Director, Room 122, Cannon Building-Ext. 53718)
SUBCO 3MITEE STAFF REPORT ON THE UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE'S
NATIONAL BULK MAIL SYSTE31
In an appearance before the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee on March 11, 1971, Postmaster General Winton M. Blount announced plans for a "National Bulk Mail System" (NBMS) consisting of 21 major and 12 auxiliary facilities which were to become the processing centers for virtually all "bulk mail", i.e. fourth class parcel post and certain third class and non-preferential second class materials. The project was to be the first significant leap forward initiated by a new postal management team which was to lead the Postal Service into a new era of efficiency through modernization.
According to Postmaster General Blount the system would significantly reduce parcel damage and improve the speed of delivery. Thus, postal managers expected to regain at least a portion of the business being lost to competitors.
The system was to cost $950 million, and be in full operation during fiscal year 1975.
Almost immediately after the Postmaster General's unveiling of the program, intense debate began among postal experts as to the validity of the NBMS concept, which in essence features highly centralized processing centers with elaborate mechanization.
Now, five years later, seventeen of the facilities are finally fully activated averaging over a year behind the original schedule. The Los Angeles and Philadelphia BMC's are partially activated and proceeding towards full activation. The Chicago and Washington BMC 's have experienced operational problems during start-up which have resulted in delays to portions of their activation.
In view of this, and the enormous impact of the National Bulk Mail System on postal operations nationwide, Congressman Charles T. Wilson (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Postal Facilities, Mail, and Labor Management Subcommittee of the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, instructed his Subcommittee staff to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the system in preparation for Subcommittee hearings on the subject.
In order to carry out the Chairman's instructions the staff has in recent months toured bulk mail facilities in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Greensboro, Dallas, Phoenix, San Francisco, Denver, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Washington (D.C.). The staff has also interviewed scores of postal managers and employees involved in NBMS operations, studied private sector organizations peforming similar processing functions, and discussed various aspects of the system in a lengthy interview last month with Edgar S. Brower, Assistant Postmaster General for Bulk Mail Processing.
Earlier this month, Chairman Wilson, accompanied by Subcommittee and full Committee staff members, conducted an unannounced tour of the Detroit General Post Office and Bulk Mail Facility, and
Congressman Edward J. Derwinski, ranking Republican on the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee, and two Committee staff members made an unannounced inspection of the main Chicago General Post Office.
In sum, the Subcommittee staff discovered many fundamental problems facing the National Bulk Mail System, and these problems will be detailed within this report.
By the late 1960s, bulk mail processing was in a state of chaos. Damage and delays in delivery were driving postal patrons away in droves. Clearly bulk mail was an ideal subject for modernization efforts.
At the same time, according to Assistant Postmaster General Brower., Mr. Blount was extremely anxious to have something-anythingnew and dramatic built within five years to symbolize the new postal management's determination to make changes.
Apparently in collaboration with the Assistant Postmaster General for Mail Processing, Harold Faught, Postmaster General Blount created the billion dollar NBMS concept, and gained postal management's approval for the project's implementation.
Unfortunately there is very little documentation to explain the reasoning which led to acceptance of the 21-unit concept, according to Mr. Brower, because at that time the new management team did everything "on the back of an envelope" and eschewed standard government traceability procedures.
Mr. Brower indicated that he understood there were some abstract discussion of what could be done, but the Subcommittee staff found no evidence that any serious cost/benefit evaluations were done on alternative concepts, such as a decentralized, less mechanized chain of facilities.
After Mr. Blount's resignation as Postmaster General, general contract awards for four bulk mail centers---Des Moines, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles-were won by Blount Brothers Corporation, a construction firm owned by the former Postmaster General and his family. These contracts amounted to over $80 million with contract modifications of over $11 million, bringing the total to over $91 million.
Criticism of these awards has been levelled at Mr. Blount from various quarters. While the Subcommittee staff would make no judgment with respect to possible impropriety, it is noteworthy that failure to properly consider other concepts for bulk mail processing could be seen as opening the former Postmaster General to the charge of implementing a system which inherently .favored the abilities of his own private business. While Assistant Postmaster General Brower maintained that the former Postmaster General had no inside information to assist Blount Brothers in its bidding, a senior manager of an internationally known architectural and engineering firm told the Subcommittee staff that a significant advantage cani be gained by any firm if it simply knows of prospective projects in advance of other firms so that a "gearing up" can be effectuated.
Early criticism of the National Bulk Mail concept was met by sharp refutations from top postal management. As the outlook changed
during construction of the system, and the Postal Service became loked into the billion dollar concept. USPS managers steadily have appeared less euphoric about the prognosis for the system.
In private interviews with the Subcommittee staff, two very highranking postal officials close to the project admitted that if they had it to do over again, the present system would never have been built.
Postmaster General Bailar, in a recent appearance before the Subcommittee, responded to a question posed by Chairman Wilson by saying -that the Serice will have to live with what its got.
Two postmasters in major cities told the staff that there was less damage and better service under the old system, and that the Bulk Mail System is a disaster.
Mr. Hal Hemmingsen, the Postmaster of Glendale (Calif.) and the President of the National Association of Postmasters of the United States, said at a December 5, 1975, Subcommittee hearing, "I haven t heard anything good about (the NBMS) .from any postal people I have talked to." This largely reflects the Subcommittee staff's findings in talking to many postal employees throughout the country.
(It should be noted that the staff found the postal employees working directly on the NBMS generally to be dedicated professionals working diligently to do the best job possible.)
Indeed, even Assistant Postmaster General Brower, while defending the NBMS on many issues, flatly told the staff that he could qwt vouch. for the long-term viability of the system. At present, he said, it is "just hanging on the edge in producing a return on investment." Even that statement would appear optimistic.
Although Postmaster General Blount told the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee on March 11, 1971, that the system would save $310 million a year by 1975, the fact is, according to Mr. Brower, the actual "saving" will be at best less than half that-$140 million. This figure, however, only represents the alleged saving over what it would have cost if the old system had been maintained without any upgrading. It is quite possible, indeed likely, that other approaches to modernization might have resulted in significantly greater savings.
As Chairman Wilson's inspection of Detroit postal facilities earlier this month so vividly demonstrated, parcel damage is the most serious immediate problem facing the NBMS.
Mr. Wilson decided to conduct the surprise visit to Detroit on the basis of increasing evidence being developed by the staff and union sources that postal management was downplaying the amount of parcel damage at the newly-operational bulk mail facilities. Only last month, Assistant Postmaster General Brower had minimized the damage problems to the Subcommittee staff.
In Detroit, tens of thousands of pieces of damaged mail were found awaiting claims processing at. the downtown post office. Most of these items had clearly been crushed in the mechanization. Despite. postal assertions that most damage results from insufficiently wrapped packages (using tissue paper and thread, etc.), the clear evidence was that most of the damage was done to well packaged items such as fils an( book and record club selections.
Several days after the Detroit inspection, the USPS admitted that in Chicago over 3.7 million pieces of mangled mail were awaiting claims processing.. The Subcommittee staff observed the beginning of this accumulation several months ago.
The Chicago disclosure prompted Mr. Derwinski's inspection on March 19. Officials at the Chicago office told Congressman Derwinski the main post office was receiving an average of 15 to 20 hampers of damaged mail, on a daily basis, from the Chicago bulk mail facility. Regional authorities told Congressman Derwinski they had been aware of the damaged mail'problem for some time, but admitted they were, surprised by the "degree" of the problem. They also expressed doubt that all the information they forwarded to headquarters in Washington was consistently passed along to the proper officials.
Despite new assertions by postal headquarters that the'volume of parcels receiving claims processing only appears to be higher than in the past because it is centralized, numerous postal officials, including one postmaster of a large city, has told the staff that the current damage rate is significantly higher than it was under the old system.
Ironically, from the beginning a primary goal of the NBMS was to be sharply lower damage rates.
During an inspection of a bulk facility it is easy to see where damage is being caused.
Although Mr. Blount in 1971 specifically promised that no package would drop more than nine inches, there are many points in bulk mail centers with drops of significantly more than that figure.
What's more, virtually every chute in the system has been inadequately designed from a package safety viewpoint, since they allow items to descend at an unreasonably high velocity. Lighter parcels often become airborne, causing damage and endangering personnel, or are crushed by heavier parcels speeding down the incline after they have come to rest.
Perhaps percentage-wise the most frequent parcel mangler is the sack shake-out unit which Chairman Wilson and the staff have observed at various facilities. This ill-designed equipment causes asig nificant number of parcels to drop between two and four feet.
The towveyor system by which parcel containers are automatically moved on tracks through the facility, is encountering serious problems. IWhen these containers crash into each other, as they frequently do, parcels are damaged.
Significant damage is also caused when items at the bottom of fully loaded trucks are crushed. This is apparently a very serious problem and could be remedied if the USPS followed the lead of one of its competitors and installed separation drop boards in the trucks to more fully distribute weight.
Bulk mail managers are to be commended for doing their best to modify damage-producing mechanization through many make-shift approaches on a trial-and-error basis, but it is highly questionable whether or not NBMS damage can be reduced to a satisfactory level.
One step that should be taken immediately is the implementation of meaningful quality control surveying techniques. Despite the fact that postal headquarters now compiles periodic statistics on damage rates (the current figures incredibly enough show signiicantly lower damage rates than in the past when in fact the opposite is true), most
employees responsible for quality control at bulk mail facilities told the staff that they did not understand exactly what should be incorporated in damage statistics, and thus damage statistics provided by postal headquarters are really meaningless.
The current damage quoted by postal headquarters is about 1 percent annually, or 10 million pieces per year. Obviously, since 3.7 million parcels are backed up in Chicago alone right now, these figures are suspect to say the least.
PERSONNEL COMPLEMENT UNDERESTMATED
In recent weeks it has become increasingly apparent that the BMF's will require a significantly higher number of employees than was first estimated.
NMost facilities have been running extra tours and requiring extended use of overtime to process the mail.
While the final additional staffing is difficult to determine at this time, it is clear that this cost will be substantial.
Increased manpower is also needed in the downtown post office's claims areas as a result of the vastly increased number of damaged parcels being sent to them.
The NBM Centers are highly specialized, inflexible facilities. They are not designed for any other postal operations, and so bulk maiVl volume must be maintained and increased to receive financial benefit from the. system. Unfortunately the prognosis for the future is not encouraging.
Parcel post volume has been declining continuously over the last decade. Since Reorganization, annual 4th class volume has dropped from 967 million pieces in fiscal 1971 to 801 million pieces in fiscal 1975.
From the beginning it was understood that the new NBMS had the goal of stopping the Postal Service's loss of volume to competitors and would permit the Service to regain some volume from those
As recently as June 26, 1974. Senior Assistant Postmaster General for Operations E. V. "Pete" Dorsey specifically stated in testimony before the Subcommittee that "we believe the (NIBM) System will allow us to recapture some business."
Assistant Postmaster General Brower told the staff last month, however, that he has never maintained that the object of the system was to "regain any business". Brower questioned whether such an objective would be "proper", or possible.
Besides the general decline in volume, significantly fewer items will be processed through the mechanized systems than was initially anticipated for several reasons.
Because of the extreme centralization which is at the heart of the concept, some parcels would, according to original plans. be shipped vast extra distances. For example, parcels moving from El Paso, Texas, to Midland, Texas, would require an additional 1483 miles of transportation under NBTS. Since in cases such as these transportation time would make it virtually impossible to meet service standards, postal
management decided. several years ago to employ a "local holdout" program whereby parcels going to nearby post offices would be withheld from the NBMS.
Postal ofikials claim that currently 8 percent (80 million parcels per year) of the bulk mail volume is being withheld from the system, but according to postal managers in the field this figure will rise considerably.
Another significant volume of bulk mail which is not being processed by the NBMS mechanization is comprised of those items referred to by the Postal Service as "non-machineable outsides" because they are of such an irregular shape or weight that they cam-lot be run through the mechanized system for sorting.
The Subcommittee staff observed large quantities of these items at various facilities throughout the country. The Washington BMF postal officials stated that non-machineable outsides were running over 12 times the rate anticipated by NBMS planners.
Although postal management maintains that only about 8 percent (80 million parcels per year) of the current volume going through the system, is non-machineable, it is obvious that the enormous damage rate currently being experienced, will necessitate a much higher nonmachineable outsides lay aside.
If the National Bulk Mail System is to have any chance to succeed, it must facilitate efficient service and restore confidence in the Postal Service's ability to safely carry bulk mail in a fashion competitive with private sector firms.
With respect to speed of delivery, it is important to note that the Postal Service's greatest loss of parcel volume from 1963 to 1973 was in short distance parcels. Despite improved delivery goals over past performance, the new NBMS delivery standards for these parcel post zones are still iot equal to those of the Service's chief competitor, the United Parcel Service.
Postal management maintains that the NBMS will be highly dependlable and that service standards will be met 95 percent of the tiime. After studying tihe operation of bulk mail facilities throughout the country, the Subcommittee staff observes that such a performance level will be extremely difficult to attain.
The reasons for this are many. Essentially, if any one of a number of problems arise, an item will fail to meet the service standard.
Most serious, of course, is the problem of missent packages. If a package is sent to the wrong location it will fail to meet the service standard. Currently missent rates are averaging 5-10 percent (50 to 100 million parcels per year), at facilities throughout the system.
Another serious problem is the failure of trucks to leave a center within an appointed deadline. Apparently many parcels are missing service standards while waiting in half-empty trucks.
TWithin just the past few weeks several scandals involving the destruction of mail from bulk mail centers have dealt a serious blow to postal hopes of restoring public confidence in its operations.
The first case involves the alleged destruction of a considerable volume of backlogged parcels awaiting rewrap at the Washington BMF. Five postal managers, imluding the general manager and assistant manager of the facility, were fired as a result of their alleged complicity in this action. The Subcommittee staff was aware that serious backups were occurring in the rewrap section of the Washington BMF but was unaware of the mail destruction until the story broke on the front page of the Washington Star on February 29.
Another incident which the staff has inquired about concerns the Memphis BMF. Apparently mail was being placed in garbage cans at the facility, and then taken to the city dump. A senior official of the USPS Southern Region told the Subcommittee staff director that the evidence clearly points to deliberate depredation of the mail, although the culprit has not yet been determined.
The Subcommittee staff was told by various postal supervisors that at the Chicago BMF pre-sorted third class mail was being broken up and run through the system one item at a time in order to raise volume figures. Chicago bulk mail officials confirmed that they were aware of such abuses, and that they were making an effort to prevent the practice from recurring.
MANAGERS WITHOUT POSTAL EXPERIENCE
Of the 21 general managers of major bulk mail facilities, only four have any postal background. Throughout the investigation the Subcommittee staff questioned whether managers new to the Postal Service would be adequately sensitized to issues such as sanctity of the mail. The incident at the Washington BMF, if the allegation proves to be true, would perhaps indicate that a general manager without postal experience does not give protection of the mail a high enough priority.
In this and other investigations the Subcommittee has found local management-level, career personnel in the Postal Service to be capablvc and fully cognizant of the extreme importance of their responsibility to move the mail safely and efficiently. Many of the "new breed" types brought into the USPS since the Reorganization, however, apparently fail to measure up in this regard.
At the heart of the National Bulk Mail System is the $150 million mechanization which is desiged, to reverse the old four-to-one ratio of manual to meciaized processing.
While the staff did not attemA to undertake a detailed engineering analysis of each piece of equipment, through interviews with various mechanization experts, postal employees working on the system and repeated observation of the system in operation at various facilities, some conclusions were drawn.
The most obvious would be that as a whole the system has been laden with superfluous gimmickry, but under-desig ed from the standpoint of damage prevention, as was previously discussed.
Assistant Postmaster General Brower shares the staff's view that much of the fancy equipment is unnecessary. He said that he would
eliminate some mechanization and install more paddle-type equipment if he could start from scratch.
Examples of nonsense machinery are everywhere.
The Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI) will soon become operational at the facilities and will note the arrival and departure of trucks. Prior to activation this function has been handled very easily by a simple file card index which was explained to the staff at Greensboro. Every postal official questioned about this piece of equipment, including Mr. Brower and several BMF General Managers, admitted it was unnecessary. Because it is part of the total information system, postal managers refused to estimate the AVI's cost.
As previously noted, the sack-shakeout mechanization is responsible for considerable parcel damage. The machine is also the epitome of needless and wasteful technology.
The Subcommittee staff has also discovered that the Postal Service is losing business because the "advanced" mechanization of the NBMS requires sturdier packaging than previously required. One major mailer in Chicago which shipped garments with plastic coverings was told by postal officials that they would have to use a more expensive rip resistant covering material in place of the plastic. The firm found it less expensive to take its business to United Parcel Service whose machinery is capable of accommodating the plastic wrap.
In order to make a comparison, the Subcommittee staff has toured a number of United Parcel Service facilities in recent months.
The essential difference between the United Parcel Service's approach and that of the NBMS is that while UPS strives for simplicity and efficiency, the bulk mail centers are engineered full of unnecessary gadgets which do not perform as well as the less-sophisticated basic equipment. Common sense features such as hydraulic lift trucks, which move parcels on rollers by the force of gravity, characterize UPS facilities. The Subcommittee staff observed considerably fewer potential damage-producing pieces of equipment in UPS facilities, and generally found conveyor belt drops to be less than in NBMS facilities.
Also notable was the detailed quality control procedures which UPS
COST OF TIE NBINTS
In 1971, Postmaster General Blount announced that the National Bulk Mail System would cost $950 million to build, however, start-up costs to put the system into operation were not included in this figure. The start-up costs approach $50 million.
According to the official National Bulk Mail System Quarterly Report for the First Quarter of FY 1976 the total cost now amounts to slightly over $997 million. Since the past five years were ones of rampant inflation the question arises, how did the project stay so close to the initial estimate? When asked about the $950 million initial figure by the Subcommittee staff, Assistant Postmaster General Brower conceded that perhaps the original estimates were inflated.
One interesting statistic is the $181 million in contract modifications. According to a knowledgeable contract specialist this figure is
very high and indicates that the Postal Service should have gone with a prototype facility and not "fast tracked".
At the Los Angeles BMF, the last center in the system to be completed, there were 138 modifications resulting from problems discovered at other facilities.
The Subcommittee staff spent considerable time investigating the status of employee safety at the new bulk mail centers. As with any new facility, potential danger spots must be identified and protective measures taken. This is the stage at which safety programs stand at the BMF's.
Safety officers at the various facilities have a wide variance of experience. Some safety officers are knowledgeable professionals with a career of safety experience, while others are only recently converted postal clerks.
One concern expressed by safety officers was that they needed clerical help to assist them in the routine responsibilities of their positions. When a safety officer is tied to his desk he camot be on the workroom floor "forcing" employees to obey safety regulations.
The Subcommittee staff related this concern to Assistant Postmaster General Brower, and Mr. Brower vowed to investigate the matter.
Generally speaking, safety officers at the NBMS facilities felt that they were not adequately consulted in the design and construction phases of the systems. This lack of adequate safety consciousness at the pre-operational stage of the program has necessitated a number of costly modifications at the centers, and led to one tragic accident where a maintenance worker fell to his death from a catwalk which was unprotected by a guardrail.
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the system is the towveyor system. Employees are being hit by the heavy automated containers, and others injured attempting to separate compacted containers. In one facility a woman had her legs crushed by a container, and is suing the Postal Service. Other similar accidents resulting in serious injury have been reported.
The. safety officers told the staff that the general managers of the facilities are showing increasing interest in the safety program, perhaps, some speculated, because of the passage of H.R. 2559, a bill sponsored by Chairman Wilson which now binds the USPS to certain provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
Unfortunately the staff found evidence that the introductory safety lecture programs at many facilities have not been successful. In some facilities only new postal employees are required to attend the sessions. In others, attendance is Pot mandatory.
Nose levels are also subject to OSHA standards. While most facilities on the whole have acceptable noise levels, there are some localized areas which do need some modification. Hopefully BMIF safety officers will also have better luck in convincing employees in noisy areas to wear ear plugs.
One matter that should be examined immediately is the availability of nurses at BMF's. Despite the fact that overtime is increasing, nurses schedifles are not being expanded. This has clearly created a dangerous situation which must be rectified.
A potentially critical safety hazard existed at the Chicago Bulk Mail Facility last year when a structural weakness was discovered in the building's roof. According to postal officials that problem has now been corrected. A roof did actually collapse at the Phoenix auxiliary facility last year. Consultants hired by the Postal Service had assured postal management that the roof was safe just prior to its collapse.
In the next few months meaningful accident frequency rates should be available, with the facilities now in full operation. These statistics should give a good reading on how successful preventive safety inmeasures have been, and where improvements need to be made.
At first glance postal employees, as well as any visitors to a new bulk mail facility, are overwhelmed by the bright, clean, efficient atmosphere. This contrasts sharply with the dreary surroundings most of these employees had grown used to at downtown post offices.
After a few months on the job, however, many postal workers have become less pleased with their working environment.
The mechanization separates employees to the degree where they lack fellow workers to talk to. Because of their loneliness, one very high regional USPS official admits, the rate of sick leave is increasing rapidly and efficiency is declining.
Apparently there is a negative psychological reaction among many employees to working in such a vast facility. Private sector tirms faced with similar problems have in some instances partitioned off sections of a plant to give workers a sense of identity. Perhaps postal management should investigate such a concept for the bull: maiT facilities.
Employees also find it difficult because of the size of the facility, to reach the cafeteria during their short break time. Commendably, at least one BMF manager has put microwave ovens in break areas so workers in the vicinity can use them.
Other morale problems include the wide use of casuals, or temporary employees, over extended periods, and in some cases excessive overtime requirements.
NBEMS COMPUTER SYSTErrM
The $30 million computer system which controls the bulk mail facility mechanization is made by Logicon Inc.
While the staff is not fully versed in computer science, it is obvious that considerable problems have plagied this system from the outset.
Virtually every high-level BMF official said that, at least initially, serious difficulties arose when the systems were coming on line, and postal employees began assuming responsibilities from Logicon personnel. According to Logicon personnel, this problem was created by lack of coordination by postal regional officials.
Many problems have now been resolved between the ITSPS and Logicon, but only after the signing of a questionable $8 million maintenance contract.
Some facilities such as Denver are experiencing uncceptable "downtime", but postal management is confident that this will not be a lasting problem.
TIME-VALUE SECOND CLASS
At the announcement of the NBMS it was stipulated that only nonpreferential second class would be sent through the system.
In conversations with representatives of major time-value second cla~s postal patrons, the staff was told that there is considerable fear among these businesses that time-value second class will I be put through the NBMS. If this happens, the businessmen believe, their time requirements will never be met.
Assistant Postmaster General Brower told the staff that "anything that we can move through the Bulk Mail System while meeting the service standards, we'll move through." He also said that some time value second class is already being processed through the NBMS. Whether or not this development will lead to delays which will lead major magazines, e.g., to pursue alternative methods of delivery, remains to be seen.
Another improvised policy which the staff discovered is "tailgating". Under this practice, trucks which have not been completely filled with bulk mail are sent to the city's main post office to pick up first class mail bound for the same destination as the parcels. The first class mail is unloaded at the designated city post office before the truck stops at the bulk mail facility.
This program appears to provide some economies in light of declining volumes. Several questions do arise, however. The Subcorimmittee staff found many trucks to be poorly packed, i.e. the parcels and sacks were not neatly stacked. Is there the possibility that first class mail could be damaged by loose parcels? Will the service standards of either first class or bulk mail suffer from delays at loading docks ?
The staff was told that in Chicago 15 percent-20 percent of the space in bulk mail trucks is being used for first class mail.
The National Bulk Mail System is the product of highly questionable judgments by former Postmaster General WVinton Blount and his assistants.
Obviously the system is not the shining example of efficiency that he predicted it would be.
Hopefully many of the problems detailed in this report can be considered during the upcoming Subcommittee hearings, and some firm idea gained about what steps USPS management plans to take to correct these difficulties.
The most important lesson that USPS management should learn from the whole Bulk Mail experience is that if significant progress is to be made in the improvement of postal operations, solid study and evaluation must be made prior to the commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars. In the dire financial situation the Service finds itself in, it can no longer afford to blithely make off-the-cuff billion dollar decisions which do not take into account future prospects.
In the next few years postal managers will be called upon to make vitally important decisions which will determine the direction the USPS will take when technology in the form of electron nic transfer and 'other advances radically changes the role of the organization and the very concept 'of postal service as we know it today.
It would be a major tragedy if the decisions are not made -in a more enlightened manner than were those concerning the NBMS.,
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 3,1262 09114 9913