FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, February 11, 2013  

Maxwell School professor named to national postal service reform panel

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Jill Leonhardt
Walter D. Broadnax, Distinguished Professor at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, has been appointed to a panel leading an independent review of a plan to breathe new life into the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) through public-private partnership. The review was commissioned by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) in response to a lack of consensus over how to reform the USPS as it faces significant financial pressures threatening its viability. The recent announcement by the USPS to discontinue Saturday delivery is part of the ongoing effort to preserve the postal service.

The NAPA panel is looking into a proposal set forth by postal industry thought leaders who have offered up a new hybrid public-private partnership model for the USPS. This model would allow private companies to compete to process and transport packages, performing a majority of postal operations, and then make USPS letter carriers responsible for driving or walking the “last mile” of delivery and pickup routes. The NAPA panel will seek input from a wide array of stakeholder groups to identify key challenges facing USPS and then offer recommendations for potential reform in March 2013. A roundtable discussion of the group’s report that will include key policymakers and stakeholders, and to which the postmaster general has been invited, will be held at that time.

The USPS lost $15.9 billion last year due to rapid conversion to digital communications and declining mail volumes, along with a range of other financial and operating factors, including competition from the private sector, a high cost infrastructure, and unsustainable retiree benefit funding mandates. Postal service reforms were debated over much of the last Congress, and a bill passed in the Senate in the spring. But lawmakers could not reach consensus on service cuts, such as ending Saturday delivery, how much taxpayers should contribute to retirement benefits for postal employees and whether to alter their labor contracts, among other issues. With no solid reform package currently on the table, the NAPA study will provide valuable information about potential systemic alterations to the business model of a system that provides the infrastructure for eight million jobs and more than seven percent of the nation’s GDP.

Before joining the Maxwell School, Broadnax served as president of Clark Atlanta University, dean of the School of Public Affairs at American University and professor at the University of Maryland, where he directed the Bureau of Governmental Research. Prior to that, he oversaw the restructuring of the Social Security Administration while deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the Department of Health and Human Services. He also has held key positions in state government as president of the New York Civil Service Commission; director of Children, Youth, and Adult Services for the state of Kansas; and chairman of the Massachusetts Executive Development Program, an advisory council to the governor. Broadnax earned a PhD from the Maxwell School in 1975.

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The Maxwell School of Syracuse University is a leading academic institution in the United States committed to scholarship, civic leadership, and education in public and international affairs. Maxwell is home to Syracuse University’s social science departments and to numerous nationally recognized multidisciplinary graduate programs in public policy, international studies, social policy, and conflict resolution. Maxwell's graduate program in public administration -- the first of its kind in the nation -- is ranked consistently the leading graduate public affairs program in the country.