A U.S. Postal Service report calls for changes to Alaska’s bypass mail program, saying it has evolved past its original purpose and seems to help commercial interests more than rural residents. Bypass mail employs private air carriers to move cargo to bush communities at subsidized rates. In the report released Monday, the postal service’s inspector general suggests the state or federal government reimburse the postal service for tens of millions of dollars in program-related losses. It also suggests removing the postal service from the equation and ceding the program to the private sector.
Speaking in Fairbanks Monday, Senator Mark Begich said he was not surprised by the criticism.
Begich sits on the Homeland and Government Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Postal Service. He says the bypass Mail program is intact in the current budget plan despite a U.S. House bill calling for the State of Alaska to pay for it. Alaska’s congressional delegation has railed against the House bill, noting that postal service is guaranteed by the Constitution.
Senator Begich warned that Alaska will face defense cuts as Congress goes to work to shape over a trillion dollars in budget reductions by January 2013. The automatic cuts are the result of the Congressional Super Committee’s failure to come up with an alternative plan by Thanksgiving. Begich says the Alaska delegation is worried about the military.
The Department of Defense has delayed several times the award of a $600 million operation and maintenance contract for the missile defense site at Ft. Greely, but Begich says he’s not concerned about that funding.
Begcih says Alaska’s strategic location will help protect its infrastructure, noting major investments at Clear Air Station and Ft. Greely as examples. Begich attended a deployment ceremony in Anchorage at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson today for 3,500 troops heading to Afghanistan.