The U.S. Postal Service needs to slash 260,000 jobs and end weekend delivery if it is to climb out of its "financially insolvent" condition, Rep. Darrell Issa said.
Despite a mandate to avoid deficits, the post office loses up to $15 billion a year, Issa told CNBC during an informal gathering of senior House Oversight and Government Reform Committee members.
"It's a combination of delivering what people want at a price they're willing to pay," the California Republican said. "We've restricted what the post office can charge for various classes of mail. But the biggest challenge is there are about 660,000 workers at the post office. In the private sector there would be about 400,000."
Though Issa's numbers are likely on the high side — the most recent official estimates from the postal service put the total employees at 574,000— reducing the size of the workforce and consolidating operations has been a priority.
Figuring out where the waste lies and streamlining operations are assignments for those who oversee the service, which receives no taxpayer funding despite being supervised by the government.
"It's not a debate about whether we need to get to that number. It's about how we get there," Issa said. "Do we get there by inducing retirements and finding ways to trim that workforce? Or do we wait for people to retire from an organization that has three fulltime employees that are 98 years old, literally."
Issa recalled that when he was a boy the post office delivered mail seven days a week and twice from Monday through Friday — though Sunday deliveries have been a rarity since 1912 and twice-daily deliveries were phased out completely by 1990.
In the digital era and its lightning-fast transactions done through e-mail and other avenues, such an ambitious postal service is no longer necessary, he said.
Issa specifically called for the streamlining of the service's 461 processing centers, half of which he would close.
"We have a problem that the post office can't seem to shrink on its own fast enough," Issa said. "Today we're in an Internet age in which mail is for less than it used to be. You can now do documentation and contracts and you can buy and sell billion-dollar entities over the Internet.
He added: "Is there a reason for the post office? Absolutely. Do we need six-day delivery? I personally don't think so."