Report: USPS should drop e-commerce

The Postal Service should drop its e-commerce initiatives and spend its resources strictly on mail delivery, the President's Commission on the U.S. Postal Service has concluded in a new report.

The commission also suggested the Postal Service consider outsourcing its IT management along with other high-cost functions, such as real estate management and vehicle maintenance.

The report (208-page PDF), released last week, said USPS' e-commerce ventures have produced largely disappointing results and "drained time and resources that could have been spent improving traditional postal services."

President Bush created the commission in December through an executive order and asked it to recommend legislative and administrative postal reforms. The White House is studying the findings, as is the Postal Service.

"We will be reviewing the commission's recommendations and look forward to continuing to work with the administration and Congress as we evaluate the commission's proposals," USPS spokesman Mark Saunders said.

The commission found most citizens have no idea that USPS provides e-commerce services, such as electronic bill payment, Internet tax services, money transfers, certified e-mail and online greeting cards. Additionally, USPS should leave these e-commerce services to the many companies that also offer them, said the report, "Embracing the Future: Making the Tough Choices to Preserve Universal Mail Service."

Instead, the Postal Service should focus on smart mail services, the report said.

"Intelligent mail can serve a far broader purpose, functioning as the foundation of a truly digital network that links postal facilities, vehicles and employees not only to each other, but also via the Internet to customers and to the individual mail pieces themselves," the commission said.

It recommended that USPS consider working with the Homeland Security Department on a sender-identification technology for each piece of mail. This technology could include a smart bar code or stamp that contains sender, geographical origin and mail class identification.

USPS also should consider letting citizens personalize their stamps with pictures or business logos that could include sender information, the commission said.

Jason Miller writes for Government Computer News

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