Updated Friday, January 4, 2013 at 10:03 PM
WASHINGTON — As members of Congress pledged Thursday to revive legislation to save the U.S. Postal Service, a Washington think tank said it will conduct an independent study of how the quasi-government agency could cede much of its operation to private companies.
The review by the nonprofit National Academy of Public Administration will analyze the benefits of restoring the agency's financial health by using a "hybrid" model, which would farm out to the private sector postal operations other than the last delivery mile. A letter carrier would still drive or walk that last part, dropping letters and packages in mailboxes.
"Just as private companies innovate and share supply chains in high-tech, automobile and other industries today, the market will drive efficiencies in the postal network," a group of privatization advocates wrote in a short paper.
The study is likely to bring more attention to a public-private model as a viable — and controversial — substitute for the Postal Service's existing structure, which relies on a unionized workforce of more than 650,000 employees to sort, package, transport and deliver the mail.
With first-class mail volume plummeting as Americans conduct more business and communications through the Internet, the Postal Service lost $16 billion in fiscal 2012.
The Postal Service declined to comment on the study, underwritten by Pitney Bowes, which makes postage meters and other business-mailing equipment.
ELAINE THOMPSON / AP
Letter carrier Sean Bailey moves mail into his van to begin delivery Monday, Dec. 5, 2011, at a post office in Seattle.