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Special Message to the Congress on Reform of the Postal Service.

February 25, 1969

To the Congress of the United States:

Reform of the postal system is long overdue.

The postal service touches the lives of all Americans. Many of our citizens feel that today's service does not meet today's needs, much less the needs of tomorrow. I share this view.

In the months ahead, I expect to propose comprehensive legislation for postal reform.

If this long-range program is to succeed, I consider it essential, as a first step, that the Congress remove the last vestiges of political patronage in the Post Office Department.

Accordingly, I urge the Congress promptly to enact legislation that would:

--eliminate the present statutory requirement for Presidential appointment and Senatorial confirmation of postmasters of first-, second-, and third-class post offices;

--provide for appointment of all postmasters by the Postmaster General in the competitive civil service; and

--prohibit political considerations in the selection or promotion of postal employees.

Such legislation would make it possible for future postmasters to be chosen in the same way that career employees have long been chosen in the other executive departments. It would not, however, affect the status of postmasters now in office.

Adoption of this proposal by the Congress would assure all of the American people--and particularly the more than 750,000 dedicated men and women who work in the postal service--that future appointments and promotions in this important department are going to be made on the basis of merit and fitness for the job, and not on the basis of political affiliations or political influence.

The tradition of political patronage in the Post Office Department extends back to the earliest days of the Republic. In a sparsely populated country, where postal officials faced few of the management problems so familiar to modern postmasters, the patronage system may have been a defensible method of selecting jobholders. As the operation of the postal service has become more complex, however, the patronage system has become an increasingly costly luxury. It is a luxury that the nation can no longer afford.

In the past two decades, there has been increasing agreement that postmaster appointments should be made on a nonpolitical basis. Both the first and second Hoover Commissions emphasized the need for such action. So did the recent President's Commission on Postal Organization, headed by Frederick R. Kappel. President Harry S. Truman and many members of Congress from both political parties have proposed legislation designed to take politics out of postal appointments. In the 90th Congress, the Senate, by a vote of 75 to 9, passed a bill containing a provision that would have placed postal appointments on a merit basis. Forty-two such bills were introduced in the House of Representatives during the 90th Congress.

The overwhelmingly favorable public comment that followed my recent announcement of our intention to disregard political consideration in selecting postmasters and rural carriers suggests that the American people are more than ready for legislative action on this matter. The time for such action is now at hand.

The benefits to be derived from such legislation are, I believe, twofold.

First, the change would expand opportunities for advancement on the part of our present postal employees. These are hard-working and loyal men and women. In the past, many of them have not received adequate recognition or well-deserved promotions for reasons which have had nothing to do with their fitness for higher position or the quality of their work. For reasons of both efficiency and morale, this situation must be changed.

Secondly, I believe that over a period of time the use of improved professional selection methods will improve the level of competence of those who take on these important postal responsibilities.

I would not request this legislation without also presenting a plan which insures that the new selection process will be effectively and impartially administered.

The Postmaster General has such a plan.

He is creating a high level, impartial national board to assist him in the future selection of postmasters for the 400 largest post offices in the country. Regional boards, also made up of exceptionally well qualified citizens, will perform a similar task in connection with the selection of other postmasters. First consideration will be given to the promotion, on a competitive basis, of present postal employees.

The Postmaster General has also initiated action to improve the criteria by which postmasters are selected. The revised criteria will emphasize managerial competence, human relations sensitivity, responsiveness to customer Concerns, an understanding of labor relations, and other important qualities.

Proposals for additional legislation dealing with the selection process will be included in the broad program for postal reform that the Postmaster General is now preparing.

Some of the needs of the Post Office clearly require extensive study before detailed solutions can be proposed. Other problems can and should be dealt with now. One objective which can be met promptly is that of taking politics out of the Post Office and I strongly recommend the swift enactment of legislation that will allow us to achieve that goal. Such legislation will be an important first step "towards postal excellence."


The White House

February 25, 1969

Note: On the same day the White House made public a memorandum, released by postmaster General Winton M. Blount, setting forth new procedures for selecting postmasters and rural carriers (5 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs., p. 321 ).

Richard Nixon, Special Message to the Congress on Reform of the Postal Service. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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