Network Rationalization Update, with detailed schedule of changes
November 17, 2012
The Postal Service has published an updated list of the processing facilities that will be impacted by Phase 1-B of the Network Rationalization plan, which begins after the New Year.
Phase 1-A was implemented this past summer. Though it was originally planned to include 48 plants, about 40 ended up being consolidated. The Postal Service took a break from the consolidations to avoid causing problems during the election and the holiday mailing season. Phase 1-B, with 81 facilities, will begin in January 2013. Phase 2 — if it’s ultimately implemented at all — would take place in 2014 and include about 100 plants.
The Postal Service’s letter to the Mail Handlers union is here, along with a pdf version of the basic list. A more detailed list, with a complete schedule of all the planned changes, is available on Google Docs as a more user-friendly spreadsheet, here. (You can download the original USPS spreadsheet here.)
A preliminary examination of the updated list indicates that there are a few changes from the list that was published back in May. At that time, there were 92 facilities in phase 1-B (winter 2013). The updated list shows 81 facilities.
While there may be some errors here, as best as we've been able to determine, 16 facilities previously planned for consolidation in 2013 have been removed from the list. Presumably they have been postponed until 2014. There are 7 or 8 facilities that were postponed from phase 1-A (summer 2012) to phase 1-B (winter 2013). A couple initially planned for phase 2 (2014) may have been moved up to 2013. Here's how the updated list differs from the May list. Please note, this is entirely unofficial and there may be a few mistakes. If you see one, let us know.
DROPPED FROM 2013 (Phase 1-B)
ADDED TO 2013 (Phase 1-B)
Facility (former phase)
Eau Claire, WI
Gaithersburg Suburban, MD
Hot Springs Natl Pk, AZ
St Cloud, MN
Bloomington, IL (2012)
Gaylord, MI (2012)
Kilmer, NJ (2014)
Mansfield, OH (2012)
San Diego, Midway, CA (2012, 2014)
Waltham, NW Boston, MA (2012)
Quincy, IL (2012)
Rockford, IL (2012)
Southeastern, PA (2012)
Suburban MD Annex (2014)
Terre Haute, IN (2012)
Overall, it appears that the Postal Service has scaled down its phase-1 plans. In the list released last May, there were 140 facilities — 48 in phase 1-A (summer 2012) and 92 in phase 1-B (winter 2013). It now looks as though both stages of phase 1 will encompass about 127 facilities. (You can see the original list here, and those that have been implemented, here.)
Phase 2 of the plan was to have included 89 facilities. If those that aren't showing up on the new phaase 1-B list are being moved to 2014, that number will be more like 102 — unless some facilities aren't going to be consolidated at all.
It's still possible that phase 2 will never happen. The Postal Regulatory Commission's advisory opinion basically recommended against it, at least until the Postal Service could see the effects of phase 1 and do some Post-Implementation Reviews.
Since the Postal Service first announced the Network Rationalization initiative in December 2011, it has changed the plan several times. The list originally had over 250 plants, but then several facilities were removed after the AMP studies were completed in February 2012. Then in May 2012 the Postal Service released a revised plan with the two phases, 140 in phase 1 and 89 in phase 2. Now it looks as though phase 1 has been pared down to 127. If the consolidations stop there, Network Rationalization will have accomplished about half of the original plan.
As for the total savings, the debate over the numbers has never been resolved. The Postal Service's own estimates have been revised downward several times, but it has always maintained the plan would result in significant savings. The PRC advisory opinion expressed considerable skepticism about the market research on revenue losses, and without a reliable estimate for the losses incurred by slowing down the mail, it's really impossible to say how much the plan will save.
It's clear, however, that the plan will never save anything like the original estimate of $3 billion. Yet the Postal Service's website nonetheless continues to cite that number. Whether that's a clerical error, wishful thinking, or willful misinformation, who knows?