Members of Congress are asking the USPS to justify its spending on an upcoming industry conference as it continues to look for ways to trim costs. The Postal Service cites revenue benefits from the face-to-face meeting.
Several lawmakers have requested a detailed justification for the U.S. Postal Service’s participation in a major industry conference next month, according to various news reports.
The Postal Service will spend about $2.2 million to send 400 executives, including Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, to the four-day National Postal Forum March 17-20 in San Francisco, a local television station reported last week.
The purpose of the National Postal Forum, according to the conference website, is to provide education to business mailers and facilitate communication between the USPS and its business customers. The conference includes more than 100 educational workshops, a tradeshow, and an opening general session where Donahoe will discuss the future of the Postal Service.
Various media outlets have reported on the Postal Service’s investment in the conference at a time when the agency is experiencing a financial crisis. (The USPS recently announced plans to eliminate Saturday mail delivery later this year.) Several members of Congress are questioning the service’s decision to participate in the meeting.
Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, sent a letter to Donahoe last week asking for details about the agency’s expenses for the meeting and how the USPS decides which employees to send to the conference.
The Postal Service has said that the National Postal Forum provides an opportunity for the agency to meet face-to-face with potential business partners and customers. At the same conference last year, held in Orlando, the agency spent about $1.9 million but brought in $160 million in revenue from sales closed at the meeting, a USPS spokesperson told Government Executive.
Conference spending by federal agencies has been a focus of congressional scrutiny since reports emerged last spring of lavish spending at a General Services Administration (GSA) employee training conference in Las Vegas. ASAE has worked to educate congressional offices about the importance of face-to-face meetings and preserving a dialogue between federal agencies and the private sector.