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To enable the Postmaster General to adopt postal cards made from paper superior in quality to that used in the regulation postal card, and to authorize the sale of the proposed cards at slightly more than 1 cent each:
Be it enacted by the Senate and the House of Representatives in Congress assembled, That the Postmaster General may adopt for special correspondence to be used in connection with the postal cards provided for in section thirty-nine hundred and sixteen of the Revised Statutes, post cards with postage stamps imprinted thereon and made from paper superior in quality to that used in said postal cards, and when such post cards have been adopted and issued they shall be sold to the public by the Post Office Department at a postage charge of one cent each, with the cost of manufacture added; and shall be transmitted through the mails under the same rules and regulations as the ordinary postal cards.
For a more detailed account of the operations of the several branches of the Postal Service during the year attention is invited to the annual reports of the four Assistant Postmasters General, and the Solicitor for the Post Office Department. Respectfully,
A. S. BURLESON,
REPORT OF THE FIRST ASSISTANT POSTMASTER
Post OFFICE DEPARTMENT,
Washington, October 15, 1915. Sir: I have the honor to submit the annual report of this bureau for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1915.
The plans for improving, developing, and extending the post-office service laid down at the outset of this administration and outlined in the two previous annual reports of this bureau have been followed consistently to the present time.
The examination and classification of fourth-class postmasters, under the President's order of May 7, 1913, has been completed and the work in connection with the appointment of presidential postmasters is up to date.
From March 4, 1913, to June 30, 1915, 45,869 postmasters of the fourth class have been classified and 7,309 (including recess appointments) in the presidential grade have been appointed and commissioned.
The work of reorganizing post offices on the two-division plan is rapidly nearing completion and has gone hand in hand with that of standardizing and perfecting methods of operation and accounting,
The natural trend of the delivery and collection service toward the more general use of vehicles has been marked during the past year. With the cooperation of the bureau of the Second Assistant Post
master General important economies have been effected and better service rendered in several cities by securing the vehicles for collection and delivery service and those for the screen-wagon service under one contract. The Postmaster General has ordered, therefore, effective July 1, 1916, that all vehicles used at post offices shall be under the control of the bureau of the First Assistant, to be operated in connection with the vehicles used in the city delivery and collection service.
Of the appropriations for the bureau for the year 1915 a surplus of five and three-quarter millions of dollars, the largest in the history of the bureau, remained unexpended at the close of the fiscal year. Attention is invited to the fact that the estimates for the fiscal year 1917 for the items of expenditure corresponding to the estimates for 1916 1 call for an average increase of only 2.59 per cent, while the annual increase in expenditures for some years past has averaged slightly more than 6 per cent.
ORGANIZATION OF BUREAU.
Under the existing organization of the Post Office Department the Bureau of the First Assistant is charged with the administration of the postal service at post offices. In recognition of this principle the Division of Dead Letters was transferred on February 1, 1915, by order of the Postmaster General, from the Bureau of the Fourth Assistant to the Bureau of the First Assistant. This division is in itself both a special post oflice for the treatment and disposal of undeliverable sealed mail and an administrative agency for controlling the disposition at post offices of other undeliverable matter. Its work is thus clearly a part of the post-oflice service and logically belongs to this bureau, from which it was separated in 1905.
The principle underlying the establishment at 15 post offices of branches of the Division of Dead Letters for the disposition of mail of the third and fourth classes of obvious value, which fails of delivery in the regular way, is approved, and the application of this principle will be extended by establishing additional branches, so that all unsealed dead mail may be handled as near the points of origin as possible, reducing the expense for transportation and expediting the necessary operations. The branch of the Division of Dead Letters now maintained by the Washington, D. C., post office will, however, be discontinued, effective November 15, 1915, and its work taken over by the department, which retains in the same building facilities for the handling of sealed dead mail. This class of mail continues to be sent to the department from all post offices, on account of the important guaranty of secrecy and inviolability surrounding sealed first-class mail, and there opened, returned, or destroyed in a strictly confidential manner.
It is believed that the extraordinary service performed by the Division of Dead Letters in connection with its administrative functions should be covered by a charge of 1 cent for each letter returned or delivered. When a letter bearing no return card fails of delivery at the post office to which it is addressed, or to which, on account of defective address or other cause it is forwarded, the service contem
1 The expenses of the Division of Dead Letters and other items due to the enlargement of the bureau are not included in this comparison.
plated by the cancellation of the original postage has been performed. This principle is recognized by the existing law, which provides that letters advertised in post offices at which they fail of delivery shall be charged with 1 cent in addition to the regular postage if delivery is effected at the post office. Congress, which has provided this 1-cent charge for the comparatively slight additional service of advertising, may properly be assumed to have contemplated no objection to the imposition by the department of a like charge for letters which fail of delivery at the post office and consequently receive, in addition to the service of advertising at the post office, the much greater service of return or delivery through the Division of Dead Letters at Washington. As the advertised letters so returned to sender or delivered to addressee have, as a matter of fact, already received the special service of advertisement at the post office of original address, the authority rests with the Postmaster General to impose this charge, and he has so ordered, effective December 1, 1915. This action will so augment the revenues of the Division of Dead Letters as to establish its operation on a self-supporting basis.
Since the close of the last fiscal year, another change affecting the organization of this bureau has taken place. The agencies for the transfer, delivery, and collection of mail in cities have been procured and controlled partly by the Bureau of the Second Assistant and partly by this bureau. The great development of the parcel post, necessitating the employment, to a much larger extent than heretofore, of vehicles, in the delivery and collection service under this bureau, has accentuated the desirability of combining this service under one management with the screen wagon, pneumatic tube, and mail messenger services under the Bureau of the Second Assistant, so that greater economy and efficiency may be secured. Accordingly the Postmaster General, by order, effective July 1, 1916, has transferred this work from the Bureau of the Second Assistant, Division of Miscellaneous Transportation, to the Bureau of the First Assistant, Division of City Delivery.
EFFECT OF THE EUROPEAN WAR.
The receipts for the fiscal year 1915 aggregated $287,186,714.85, a falling off as compared with 1914 of about one-quarter of 1 per cent. This result was due to the disturbance to business conditions in this country consequent on the outbreak of hostilities in Europe and was reflected in the business of the Postal Service beginning with August, 1914. Postal revenues for the 50 largest offices, which show about 50 per cent of the entire postal revenues, compared with the corresponding months of the previous year, fell away from 1 to 8 per cent for every month until May, 1915, in which month the revenues became practically stationary. The average annual increase in postal receipts for the last three years has been 8 per cent, and a similar increase was expected for the fiscal year 1915 at the time the appropriations for that year were granted by Congress and when the allowances to postmasters were made by the department.
Accordingly the Postmaster General directed a vigilant study of the revenue returns under war conditions, and as early as September, 1914, enjoined on all branches of the Postal Service the most careful efforts to retrench expenditures and adjust the service to the lessened
demand for postal facilities. The allowances which had been made to post offices based on the normal increase of revenues and business were promptly revised and the cooperation of postmasters secured in slowing up the momentum of expenditures so far as such action could be taken without withdrawing needed service from any community. Great care was taken not to impose hardship on the employees of the post offices and in practically all cases it was found feasible to effect satisfactory retrenchment in salary expenditures by permitting vacancies to lapse. The result of these efforts has been highly gratifying and, as indicated in Table 4 of the appendix, it is now practically certain that more than five and three-quarter millions of dollars of the appropriations available for the service of this bureau for the fiscal year 1915 will be found to have remained unexpended after all payments chargeable to that year have been made.
It will be more difficult, however, to operate the post-office service during the current fiscal year under the resolution of Congress continuing the appropriations of 1915 in the same amounts for 1916, as the postal receipts, and with them the business conditions of the Nation and the demand for service at post offices, are rapidly returning to normal. Since May an increase has been recorded each month, rising in August to an increase of 4.04 per cent. With the indicated return to prosperity it is hardly probable that any unexpended balance of appropriations will remain at the close of the current fiscal year. However, the estimates for 1917 have been confined to amounts exceeding in the aggregate the appropriations for 1915 and 1916 by only 2.6 per cent, based on the reorganization work already accomplished and on proposed reforms and careful administration.
The success of measures devised for the improvement of the service depends very largely on the loyalty and efficiency of the postmasters. The appointment of these officers has been regarded, therefore, as of paramount importance. At the outset of the administration the Postmaster General laid down the requirement that all incumbents and appointees must devote their time and personal attention to their official duties. This requirement has been strictly adhered to and great care taken to examine into the qualifications of all persons proposed for nomination by the President. The number of appointments of postmasters at post oflices of the first, second, and third classes during the fiscal year ended June 30, 1915, was 2,630.
The appointment and classification of postmasters of the fourth class under the Executive order of May 7, 1913, has been completed. The appointments to offices of this class are now made only on the death, resignation, or removal of the incumbent for cause or on the establishment of new post offices. The appointment of the most numerous class of postmasters has thus been placed on a basis of merit and efficiency under civil-service rules. It is the policy of the department on the advancement of post offices to the third class to recommend to the President the nomination for appointment of incumbents who have rendered satisfactory service. The Postmaster General has already urged upon Congress, as a step in the direction
of removing all Postal Service appointments from the influence of politics, the desirability of extending civil-service classification to third-class postmasters. The technicality and complexity of the Postal Service, and its increasing importance to the welfare of the people, forcibly suggest the need for facilitating the appointment, retention, and interchangeability of the best possible talent both in executive and subordinate positions. Hence, postmasters of all grades, as well as other officers, should be appointed for indeterminate periods and be subject to transfer and promotion to any position in the Postal Service.
The policy of requiring a high grade of executive service of postmasters has not stopped with securing the appointment of competent persons to these positions. The lines of departmental control over postmasters have been strengthened. Postmasters at offices of the fourth class are now required to submit quarterly to this bureau a comprehensive statement of their work. This statement is in the form of answers to set questions regarding their official conduct. These reports must be rendered promptly on penalty of removal and are subject to verification by post-office inspectors. This requirement quickly discloses irregularities and the necessity for instruction or admonition, stimulates the prompt rendition of reports to the auditor, and results in general improvement. The bureau is alsu cooperating closely with the auditor in following up, cases of postmasters who are delinquent in making reports and remittances or who report balances of money-order funds in excess of their authorized reserves. As a further measure to prevent the occurrence of shortages in the accounts of postmasters, which may be due to lax methods of keeping records, postmasters at presidential post offices have been required to draw their salaries only twice monthly and at the same time as payments are made to their employees. Not only in the matter of financial reports, but also in responding to all inquiries from the department, postmasters are being held strictly accountable for prompt and business-like methods and conduct. Special phases of post-office administration have been made the subject of circular letters, which are issued serially from time to time and kept on file by the postmasters.
WORK OF POSTMASTERS.
The relations of postmasters to their patrons as well as to the department are becoming of increasing importance, and many postmasters are following the suggestions made in the last annual report of this bureau and in circular letters for increasing the value of their services to the local communities. They have solicited the advice and enlisted the cooperation of boards of trade and other civic bodies; they have appeared before schools and given instruction in the proper use of the mails and the relation of the post office to citizenship; they have prepared and conducted exhibits illustrating the parcel post at State and county fairs; and in many ways exerted themselves in a loyal and public-spirited manner to bring forcibly to the attention of the patrons the value of more intelligent use of these facilities, and have made their post offices as helpful as possible to the social and commercial interests of their communities.