Study to examine USPS partial-privatization

383592 02: (FILE PHOTO) United States Postal Service worker Bill Moody loads packages onto a truck for delivery December 21, 2000 at a facility in downtown Boston. The U.S. Postal Service authorized April 3, 2001 a study into shortening its delivery week to five days and merging facilities to cut costs as revenues slow in a softening economy. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Newsmakers)
Darren McCollester/Newsmakers

An upcoming study from the National Academy of Public Administration examines the benefits of partially privatizing the financially ailing U.S. Postal Service, which lost $16 billion dollars in fiscal year 2012 alone.

The study will look to a "hybrid model" that would allow private companies to deliver parcels up until the "last delivery mile," according to the Washington Post. A Postal Service letter carrier would still be responsible for that last mile, physically delivering letters and packages to their recipients.

"Just as private companies innovate and share supply chains in high-tech, automobile, and other industries today, the market will drive efficiencies in the postal network," a group of privatization proponents wrote in a paper previewing the study.

Retaining the letter carrier for the "last delivery mile" would ensure that "the trusted letter carrier would remain the face of the U.S. Postal Service," while also facilitating "greater efficiency and innovation," the proponents wrote.

The Postal Service has languished in recent years due to a changing information technology landscape that has sapped much of the agency's previously robust revenue stream - people who previously purchased postage to send letters can now send e-mail free of charge, for example.

Many conservatives have pitched privatization as a cure for what ails the venerable institution, but congressional Democrats and postal unions, which could lose thousands of members, have objected.

The previous Congress failed to reach an agreement on reforming the USPS, with disputes over employee benefits, labor contracts, Saturday delivery, and other service cuts creating a rift that proved too wide for lawmakers to bridge.

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chair committees in their respective chambers that oversee the Postal Service, released a statement Thursday explaining, "Although the 112th Congress did not come to a consensus around a package of reforms that can update the Postal Service's network and business model to reflect the reality that it faces today, we remain committed to working with our colleagues in both the House and the Senate to reform [the agency] so it can survive and thrive in the 21st century."

The study is being underwritten by Connecticut-based firm Pitney Bowes, which already contracts with the Postal Service for portions of its operations and could stand to benefit from the agency's further privatization.