GAO: US Postal Service Must Better Manage IT Investments to Fully Leverage Technological Capabilities

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Postal Service invests hundreds of millions of dollars in information technology (IT) each year, but can not fully utilize its technological capabilities until it begins to better manage these investments, according to a new report by the General Accounting Office (GAO), Congress’ watchdog arm.

Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Ranking Member Fred Thompson (R-TN), Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS), requested the report last year after the Postal Service’s startling revelation that it might face a $2.5 billion deficit during that fiscal year. In light of the growing operating expenses and reductions in revenue, there is a great need for the Postal Service to use its IT funding wisely.

“While the Postal Service is the subject of this report, effective IT management is a government-wide problem. We spend billions on information technology for government agencies and what we too often find is that systems are not being utilized to their potential, if at all. Every dollar, every asset, every resource counts, and sound financial management is more important now than ever,” said Ranking Member Thompson.

“We know that the Postal Service is in desperate financial straits, which the Service is doing its best to ameliorate. Information technology, however, is one of the most important investments any business can make. GAO correctly points out that the Postal Service must take care to spend its money wisely on these projects to maximize value and minimize risks,” Chairman Lieberman said.

“Adapting modern technology offers tremendous potential for the Postal Service as it expands its delivery network. It is imperative that this be done in an efficient and effective manner. As the Postal Service moves forward with its Information Technology program, it must take steps to ensure that its limited resources are expended in the best interest of the American public,” said Senator Akaka.

The GAO found that while the Postal Service evaluates proposed IT projects before investing in them, it could better manage these investments by assessing their performance, evaluating the lessons learned from those assessments, and using that information to select investments that best meets its mission needs. Until these steps are implemented, the GAO concludes that the Postal Service will not be able to fully leverage its IT capabilities for strategic outcomes.