USPS Has Made 57 Changes to Mail Operations Since Louis DeJoy Took Over

He said he only made one.
October 21, 2020, 5:51pm
Louis DeJoy swears to tell the whole truth
Tom Williams / Contributor via Getty Images

On July 21, Senator Tom Carper's office asked USPS Government Relations staff if anything had happened at the USPS to cause a huge surge in mail delays, something they were getting even more complaints about on a daily basis. Carper's office inquired if "Broadly, has something happened."

"Broadly speaking, the internet and social media happened," a USPS government relations official replied, according to a recently released USPS Office of Inspector General report. The USPS official went on to say "operationally we're not seeing anything that has really changed in the last two or three weeks."

Advertisement

This was completely untrue. As of July 10, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's USPS had instituted a series of policy changes that were designed to reduce costs but had the explicit impact of slowing down mail, a directive first reported by the Washington Post

But that was just the tip of the iceberg. At the end of June, USPS management had begun the process of instituting 57 separate changes across the agency in a bid to significantly reduce the number of work-hours per year and therefore cut costs, at a time when USPS was under pressure to deliver a massive surge in packages which are labor-intensive to sort and deliver. The changes happened a few months before large numbers of mail-in ballots were also expected due to the pandemic.

Over the summer, the USPS found itself at the center of unprecedented public scrutiny because it was and remains an essential service in the middle of a pandemic and a key link in the vote-by-mail chain. As more elected officials asked what was going on with the mail, the USPS continued to obfuscate, according to the OIG report.

In general, the OIG found the USPS's responses to elected officials was "generally accurate" but "incomplete." For example, while DeJoy's Congressional testimony accurately said the removal of sorting machines and blue mail boxes were initiatives in place before his tenure, he did not disclose that the pace of those removals rapidly accelerated once he took office. The OIG found of all the sorting machines removed since October 2019, 61 percent were taken apart from June to August.

Advertisement

And while DeJoy repeatedly told elected officials he only made one major change since he took office—ordering trucks to not make late or extra trips—the report found the USPS actually made 57 changes to postal operations, ranging from "mail processing, vehicle services, equipment maintenance, and post office operations (delivery and retail)." These 57 changes—perhaps minor in isolation but taken together were "transformational,"—were part of a wide-ranging "Do It Now FY Strategies" implemented by Executive Vice President and the Chief Logistics & Processing Operations Officer David E. Williams (not to be confused with former USPS Inspector General and Board of Governors member David C. Williams who testified before Congress that the Trump administration is acting through Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin to influence USPS operations).  

The USPS Board of Governors issued a statement saying it does not "agree with the premise that underlies the report: That the initiatives reviewed are strategic in nature, or that they are 'transformational' to postal operations, either individually or collectively." The statement dismissed these 57 changes as "tactics and measures…as part of its normal 'blocking and tackling' initiatives necessary to meet the annual financial plan and to adjust to the perennial declines in mail volume that have been occurring for over a decade." The Board of Governors also said it saw "no reason to include normal Service operational actions in its Congressional responses."

Advertisement

In a statement, Senator Carper said the report "confirmed what my Democratic colleagues and I have suspected from the start and even saw firsthand…The bottom line is that the Postal Service is supposed to serve the American people. And, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, when so many people were so much more dependent on the Postal Service than they had ever been before, the Postal Service failed to do just that."

Subscribe to The Mail, Motherboard’s newsletter about the USPS, voting security, and democracy.