Boost Passport Services, Says USPS Inspector General

There’ve been a lot of harebrained schemes over the years for the U.S. Postal Service to boost its revenue. Many of them like selling beer and wine in local branches and delivering groceries to front doors were patently unworkable, if not downright stupid.

But now the USPS Office of the Inspector General has come with what seems like a plausible idea and one that wouldn’t stretch the postal service very far out of its comfort zone: expanding passport services.

In a report released last month the USPSOIG encouraged the postal service to expand a test program it started in California in 2013 where it began testing longer hours and more thoroughly trained staff

In fiscal 2014, USPS generated $129.4 million in revenue from processing about 5.2 million passport applications, according to the Inspector General.

At present, the USPS accepts passport applications on behalf of the State Department at more than 5,000 post offices across the country. Those facilities accept passport applications for at least five hours per day, charging a $25 fee for first-time applications and no fee for renewal applications. Some locations also take passport photos for $15.

The USPSOIG recommended that postal management look into rolling out a successful pilot program that offers expanded passport services at five Southern California locations.

That’s a rather tepid approach.

In truth, the USPS should massively expand this program nationwide. Maybe providing enhanced passport services could help deter—or at least slow down—its program to close and consolidate post offices.

Between 2013 and 2014, the
number of passport applications processed at the centers increased by almost 150 percent, and revenue increased by about $1.2 million, said the Inspector General.

This report led the USPS to say it would increase the number of passport centers nationwide by fiscal 2016 but didn’t say when or how many.
The Inspector General may have done the postal service a favor by identifying
more than 180 locations that, like the five pilot passport centers, are close to a U.S. border or a shopping center and take passport photos.

To be fair, receipts from passport fees and pictures may not make much of a dent in the postal service’s overall deficit.

But it’s an idea that’s workable, a modest proposal that could bring in
money steadily that doesn’t butt heads with any private industries nor is likely to draw much opposition.

In fact, making it easier to get passports seems pretty inoffensive.

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