The proposed budget released today by the Obama Administration would "promote an adaptive, 21st Century workforce" in the Postal Service but also make it a potential political football next year.
Postal executives' vision for a more adaptive workforce is to use more temporary and part-time employees so that USPS can efficiently adjust to usual fluctuations in mail volume. But that's hard to do when in many postal facilities there is no longer enough work for all of the full-timers.
The FY2012 budget proposal provides no details on how the Administration would promote "an adaptive, 21st Century workforce," but I can't see that happening without a significant number of retirements. And that might mean aggressive efforts to incent or induce retirements. (There's also what Dead Tree Edition has suggested -- bonuses for career employees who switch to part-time status.)
With USPS on track to go broke on Sept. 30, this budget has an unusual focus on postal issues rather than the usual not-so-benign neglect. It would give (or, rather, return) to the Postal Service just enough money to stay afloat for another year, which means USPS is now slated to go broke about five weeks before next year's presidential election.
The financial relief would provide the Postal Service "the breathing room necessary to continue restructuring its operations without severe disruptions" but must be "coupled with meaningful reforms to its business model to make USPS viable."
One "meaningful reform" on the minds of postal executives is ending Saturday delivery, but the budget includes the usual language about maintaining six-day delivery.
Another major goal for the Postal Service in the budget is to "realign its infrastructure, facilities, processing and delivery systems to continuously improve efficiency." But that had better not mean small post offices: The budget proposal includes the usual language stating that no federal funds can be used "to consolidate or close small rural and other small post offices in fiscal year 2012."
In other words, it's politicians' usual message to the Postal Service: Cut to the bone as long as it doesn't affect anyone who might vote for me.