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Greenberg on Postal Service

July 11, 1988

You carried a column by Daniel S. Greenberg in which he charges that the U.S. Postal Service is "medieval," failing to modernize by neglecting research and development (Op-Ed Page, June 22). When he wrote a similar article in 1980 with some identical language, his allegations were, in large part, true. But where has "Rip Van" Greenberg been in the intervening eight years?

The Postal Service is in the midst of a massive transition from mechanization to automation for the processing of the ever-increasing volume of mail and possesses the most advanced postal technology in the world today. By next spring, all 406 of the second-generation optical character readers will have been converted to read all lines of the address and sort the mail at the rate of 27,000 to 35,000 per hour. A person can manually sort 800 pieces of mail an hour.

The list of automated equipment is extensive but let your readers understand the Postal Service is spending $757 million on automation in 1988, $830 million next year and $1 billion in 1990. This can hardly be construed as "technological backwardness." Yet he fantasizes that Benjamin Franklin would find little changed in a contemporary post office. On the contrary, Dr. Franklin, a noted innovator, would be amazed and pleased.

Perhaps not as amazed, however, as Greenberg to learn the Postal Service has had a Technology Resource Department since 1983, which is currently delving into increased use of robotics, artificial intelligence and lasers for mail processing purposes.

FRANK S. JOHNSON JR.

Assistant Postmaster General

Washington, D.C.

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