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tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  May 18, 2016 5:00pm-7:01pm EDT

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required and how do we want to require those services which we would like to see through comprehensive postal reform. >> let me springboard off that and come back to you, ms. brennan. what is the postal service's long-term plan for addressing the declining industry? >> let me first, if i may congressman, address your comment earlier about the losses. the majority of the losses are tied to the prefunding mandate. in terms of our long-term plan, it is addressing infrastructure, how to leverage that, repurpose that to support the growth. address the latent capacity -- >> support what growth? >> package growth, sir. we've grown our packages 49% over the past 5 years. we will right size the infrastructure as we've been doing with where we need to consolidate with the decline in letter volume. we'll continue to look at every opportunity to improve operating efficiencies. we have a number, as i mentioned, over $5 billion of cost reductions identified in our five-year plan.
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>> thank you. i think it's time for the postal service to act as a private business has to act in similar situations of constantly losing money without relying upon the taxpayer. at some point we've got to change. mr. chairman, i thank you for your indulgence. >> thank the gentleman. will recognize the gentleman from california for five minutes. >> postmaster brennan, last october the u.s. postal inspection service issued a release about mail theft. and it said that these crimes are increasing and that mail theft from collection boxes and customers' mailboxes is a big problem. it also says most cases of mail theft from centralized mailbox units involve counterfeit master keys. so, two questions for you. one is when you talk about right sizing, are you reducing u.s. postal inspection service numbers at all? and does that have an effect on
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mail theft? and as you move to more and more cluster boxes, doesn't that increase theft because all you need is one master key and you have access to a whole lot of mailboxes. >> to your question, no, we are not reducing. we have two classes currently in training to increase the postal inspection staffing. in terms of the theft particularly as you're aware in your district, congressman, we've got a postal inspection task force that's working with local authorities and the community and taking proactive measures to address that. i'd be happy to brief you in detail. >> thank you, i would appreciate that. >> certainly. >> second, in terms of trying to raise revenue, what is your view of postal banking as a way to generate revenue and also serve communities that may not be served as well by banks or may not have the trust of private banks but may trust the post office? >> fundamentally we're open to any new product and service that would generate profitable
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revenue. that said, we do provide some banking services now. we provide money orders, electronic money transfers and cash treasury checks. we would need to look at that through a business prism. can we execute effectively. can we grow profitable revenue. and is this a service that is not offered in the public sector. >> okay. we have had a number of difficulties with service in my district. so, the first point i want to make is when we contact your office, they have been enormously responsive and they are able to help cases. about 97% of cases get resolved. the problem is we continue to get more and more cases. and now it looks like it's a systemic issue in western l.a. county. a council member in west l.a., his office had not gotten any mail for an entire week. we just checked again and even
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when they get mail it's sort of spotty, so this past monday and tuesday they did not get any mail. we get complaints from santa monica and redondo beach, and the beverly hills post office fails to deliver. last september post office acknowledges crisis and meeting at congressman lu's office. last december beverly hills post office issues continue and this january from "beverly hills courier" beverly hills post office ends year with more customer woes. with the indulgence of the chair if i could submit these. >> so ordered. >> if you could work with my office to look into these issues. i'm elevating it because you happen to be here, but also we have tried with the local folks on numerous occasions. they will solve individual cases
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but systemically they keep on coming in. i think there needs to be a systemic fix. >> if i may address beverly hills which i am familiar with specifically. we did make some adjustments in transportation and staffing to improve the performance out of that particular facility. i'll be glad to talk to you and follow-up on the other issues. >> thank you. then my last point, one of my colleagues said that the postal service should be run more like a business. you don't actually set the rates for your products, correct? >> products that generate roughly 76% of our re revenue are capped at household inflation. >> and, in fact, if you actually set your products and market rates, you'd be getting a lot more revenue, isn't that correct, potentially? >> we have an opportunity in 2017 with the review by the prc of the rate-making process to look at, at the present price cap, is it meeting its objective as outlined to ensure that
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revenues cover our expenses and ensure the financial stability of the postal service. we think there's opportunity there. we think a rigid price cap is fundamentally unsuited in an environment where you have a declining workload and fixed or growing infrastructure costs. >> my view is if people want the postal service to run like a business, they need to give it the tools to make it run like a business, otherwise they should stop saying that. i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman. now recognize the gentleman from north carolina, mr. walker, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, panel, for being here today. a lot of this to me is about the perceptions, trust in the post office as a whole. and just going back and looking at the numbers over the last few years, 2015, $5.1 billion lost. 2014, $5.5 billion. '13, $5 billion. 2012, 15.9 billion.
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2010, $8.5 billion. at some point the people are saying what's going on here. this isn't just a perception. this is the reality of a major trust issue. i have five minutes to speak. in those five minutes the approximate amount that the post office will lose is $47,564. that's a huge issue. and i've heard today some of the witnesses that are working hard or some of the members, the colleagues, they are working hard to try to do things better. but i have a couple specific questions in regard to this rate increase that we're beseeching congress on. if you do receive this rate increase, can you tell me about where this extra money will be reinvested? director brennan? >> in terms of -- >> if you were granted a rate increase, where would the money go? where would you invest it? >> first, we would look to pay down debt, if we were able to address the long-term
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liabilities. and the net losses that you cited, congressman, are in large part due to the prefunding requirement. the past three years we have had controllable income, which is revenue less expenses. that which is in our control. >> would you agree with this statement -- that the postal service could run out of money between six months and a year at the moment? >> what we will do, our fiduciary responsibility, would be to make decisions and prioritize which payments to make to ensure that we would be able to continue to deliver the mail and pay our employees and our suppliers. >> my concern with that statement is that wasn't a recent statement. that statement was from over three years ago, and we've seen continuing beseech of congress as far as more and more funding, this isn't working out. i want to hone in today on something, though, specifically about packages versus the mail and i want to be sure i'm clear on this as we've done some research on this recently.
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the increases requesting, would they be used to subsidize the package area of the post office business, or would it be to increase the mail delivery? can you expound on that a little bit today? >> yes. in terms of the cross -- cross subsidization issue, the prc annually reviews to ensure that there is no cross subsidization, that our competitive products cover their costs and also that they contribute a minimum of 5.5% to institutional costs. the prc has found annually since the inception of paea that that is, in fact, happening. >> you have stated that postal service has made consolidations to respond to the decline in the mail, but you've also stated that you are investing in package delivery. i believe you said that just a few minutes earlier and that as a result of those investments package delivery was not slowed by the consolidations. but title 39, section 101,
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subsection "e" states in determining all policies for postal services the postal service shall give the highest consideration to the requirement for the most expeditious collection, transportation and delivery of important letter mail. do you think that the postal service is following both the spirit and the letter of this law given your current actions? >> i do believe we are following the spirit of that law. >> if that is the cares, then, the annual compliant report suggests that the post office is routinely prioritizing competitive products over market-dominant product. do you agree with that? >> i would have to see that to see what you are referring to. >> it's your annual compliance report. >> it says -- >> that the postal service is routinely prioritizing competitive products over market-dominant products. can you expound on that? it may be the prc comment that suggests -- i'm not sure what you are referencing there. if i can talk about the annual
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compliance report and the annual compliance determination. we are very transparent about performance in terms of transit time performance, in terms of volume growth and in terms of investments within the organization. >> thank you. mr. chairman, i appreciate the time. thank you, general brennan. i yield back. >> thank you. now recognize the gentleman from pennsylvania, mr. boyle, for five minutes. >> yes, thank you, mr. chairman. i was struck by the fact -- i don't know when it was, i think it was recent. that pew research did a poll of favorability ratings of different various government agencies, and the post office came out the highest at 84%. which i can't remember where congress was, but i think postal service was slightly higher than where congress ended up, significantly lower than that. it's made all the more remarkable where you've had a decade there were 200,000 fewer employees than just a decade
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ago. my question, though, is regarding the rather unique requirement the postal service lives under where essentially you have to prepay 75 years of obligations within a ten-year window. can you talk about the effect that that has had on the balance sheet? and do you know of any other government agency or for that matter private sector company that has to live under such a unique requirement. i'll leave that to anyone who wants to grab in. if you would like to go ahead. >> i'll be happy to, congressman. in terms of the prefunding requirement, my understanding is it would be unique to the postal service. there is some responsibility with the department of defense in terms of prefunding. my understanding is that their amortization payments are over a longer period of time, plus they are appropriated and integrated with medicare. >> if anyone else would like to add something. >> congressman, this was enacted as part of the 2006 law in a
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bipartisan way with the best of intentions. of course, the next year our economy went into the deepest recession since the great depression and with that the mail volume accelerated and causes these challenges. the postmaster general's correct. i would point out when the 2006 law was enacted there was zero dollars prefunded for future retiree health benefits. today as we speak there's more than $50 billion that has been prefunded. there's still an outstanding obligation of roughly half that amount, but we've gone from nothing prefunded to $50 billion today. >> if you would like to add something? >> yes, i would. thanks. yes, this is -- this is unique to the postal service, but i'd like to point out that the proposals that the consensus group has put together, we would not only fully fund the retiree health fund, we would be overfunded if you took all the
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components. that's something that nobody else is able to do. >> thank you. i would just add that my great concern is that particularly as we have this conversation of going from six-day to five-day mail that we continue to be in this negative cycle of cutbacks and closures that is really self-fulfilling prophecy. that can be very destructive to communities and neighborhoods. i represent a largely suburban and urban residential district. when we went through even just a rumored closing of our post office in the 19116 zip code, that set off a firestorm. and maybe not for people my age but for those who were of an older age, having that local post office there is an important part of the community. so, as we look at these decisions and certainly dollars and cents plays a major role, i
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think we also have to put a value on what the local post office means to the community. and if that's the case in a neighborhood and in a suburban area, i think it's only more so the case in a rural area, which tends to be more remote. thank you, i yield back. >> if the gentleman would yield for just a second. >> sure. >> i want to make sure it's clear. we're not talking about five-day delivery. i mean, i don't want that to be the headlines that comes out of this hearing, because your point is well taken. so, whether it's in a suburban area or a very rural area, i don't want the phone calls to start coming in. >> thank you. and if i could reclaim -- actually, if i could reclaim my time. >> sure. >> and then will yield briefly to mr. lynch. i would say while that might not be the point of today there had been numerous proposals about going to five days, and it has me very concerned and a number of our constituents for the reasons you described.
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i'll yield now to mr. lynch. >> thank you. very briefly, mr. chairman, and i thank the gentleman for yielding. i know there were some implications here that the postal workers were not doing their part or costs were creeping up or things like that. i want to read you something. in 2011 the postal union was the largest union and the postal service reached a voluntary agreement with far-reaching concessions. the 2002-2015 agreement contained wage freezes for year one. wage freeze for year two. and that's within a five-year contract. followed by a 1% raise, a 1.5% raise and a 1% raise cost of living, and it was deferred to the third and fourth year. so, extremely, extremely, extremely modest increase on the part of the employees including two years of a wage freeze in a five-year contract.
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so, you know, people should bear that in mind. i yield back. thank you. >> thank you. thank the gentleman. now recognize the gentleman from alabama. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and for the record, i want to say that my wife and i love our postman. he does a great job. ms. lorentz, it was mentioned earlier about some of the things that are being done in the private sector. i'd like to ask you what cost-cutting initiatives has industry had to implement in the wake of the involving postal world as we know it? >> so, we've seen a great consolidation in our industry. we have seen some of the larger print houses kind of eat up all the little ones to get rid of excess capacity. we've seen plant closures and layoffs and those sorts of things in order to kind of compensate for the decline in mail volume that's seen across the industry. >> if you had to guess what cost-cutting efforts would the postal service have to take or
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be taking if it were a private company? >> well, i think that the postal service has shown an ability to cut costs in the extreme conditions, that they've been functioning under. i mean, i'm not really at liberty to say that layoffs should happen or anything should happen to the common employee of the postal service. i think that there are great lengths of additional price signals and cost efficiency that they could gain through working with the industry. i think the industry has done more and more in the form of work share to take work hours out of, you know, the postal facilities and continue to rely on the industry to do things that they do very well. >> i want to bring up a couple of things that have come to my attention that i think might be helpful. for instance, there's an economic analysis from a group called keep ridge, you might be familiar with, ms. brennan, that
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says the postal service could save over $2 billion on the delivery vehicle procurement that you're planning, which is expected to cost over $6 billion. how do you respond to that? >> congressman, i'd have to read that report. in terms of the actual cost, we have some estimates about the cost, but a number of factors will determine the cost of the vehicle fleet replacement. >> you're correct in that. there are a number of factors, and that's one of the reasons why your costs are so high because you're buying vehicles that you plan to keep in place for a number of years, and your fuel costs, your maintenance costs are exorbitant compared to the other -- what other private companies would be doing. and i highly recommend that you take a look at that keybridge analysis. and if you have trouble finding wri it, i think if you let the
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committee know we can find it for you, get it for you. there's also an issue, ms. brennan, in november the inspector general put out their semiannual report and found that there was $1.8 billion in funds that could be put to better use and $455 million in questionable costs from april to september of 2015 alone. i'd like to know how you responded to the ig's report? >> well, congressman, that's a compilation of literally probably hundreds of audits and/or studies, so i would need to look at them in separation or in isolation to address that. currently the oig does valuable work for us and identifies opportunity. oftentimes it is work that we are currently undertaking and working through. so, i would certainly acknowledge that there is opportunity for process improvement and additional efficiencies that will help drive down costs.
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>> well, considering the environment that you're in right now and, you know, these two combined would be somewhere in the range of $2.3 billion and that you could save another $2 billion and your vehicle procurement, you know, gets a little over $4 billion, i think that ought to be a couple of things at the top of your list for consideration. and then i'm not for layoffs either, but i also am concerned about the public perception of the post office and, again, for the record, we think the world of our postman. but there was a survey done by accenture. they looked at 75% of the world's mail delivery and found the post office ranked last. as the lowest performing postal agency or commercial operator in
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the world. and my concern is, is not just with the cost cutting but the public perception of what the post office does. and you add -- you add the poor performance and i think because of the labor contract you're under, the inability to remove poor-performing workers and then these losses, the post office has got to really address these issues to improve its image at hand to make it a viable industry. thank you, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank the gentleman. will now recognize the gentle woman from michigan, ms. lawrence, for five minutes. >> thank you. it's an honor to be here today, and thank you, chairman, and the ranking member for calling this hearing. i want it to be clear for the record that i had a 30-year career with the postal service
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starting as a mail carrier, so i have a lot of respect for mr. rolando. i want to say no other organization in america is compelled to prefund future retirement benefits at the level that is done by the postal service. it is clear that pushing a public agenda which operates with no taxpayer funds, so there was some allusion earlier that we're using taxpayer dollars. the revenue that we generate from the sale of our products is what we fund and operate our business with. so often it seems to get confusing in debate when we start talking about the postal service as if we're using taxpayer dollars. so, it operates with no taxpayer funds to the brink of financial crisis by forcing it to assume the financial burden, assumed by no other agency or company, is the height of the financial
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irresponsibility of congress. and congress should fix this problem that we created. today as we are having this debate about the future of the postal service, and, yes, there are some issues we need to work with. and, ms. brennan, i've been very clear with you in private conversations and i'm trusting you to kecontinue to keep delivy standard as one of the primary objectives. and as i look here at our postal customers and mailers who depend on us. but one of the things i wanted to talk about is the downsizing commitment that has been made by the postal service. reducing your workforce by 200,000 careers since 2006. reducing your work hours by 331 million. changing operation hours. can you, ms. brennan -- and i
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would like mr. rolando to weigh in on this as well in my mailers, if you have time. how has this consolidation and reduction of workforce aligned with the phase one and phase two of the network of rationalization plan or initiative? >> if i can. phase one we completed. phase two we completed 17 of the projected 82 consolidations. so, we have additional cons consolidations that we'll revisit. we'll redo the economic analysis given the data is now five years old and would make the appropriate notifications before we would resume those consolidations. >> mr. rolando, how is it affecting the day-to-day -- >> first of all, i would like to say, keep in mind a lot of this is in reaction to the prefunding itself. i keep hearing over and over what would you do if you were a private company.
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and if we were a private company, we wouldn't have $50 billion of resources tied up in a fund for 75 years into the future. it would certainly affect the standards. it would affect service. it would affect rates. it would affect vehicles. it would affect infrastructure. it would affect all kind of things. i think the takeaway from all of this is we're not allowed in that way to act like a private company. we do have to prefund. there's no appetite in congress for us not to prefund, so that's why we put together this coalition to find a way to satisfy that mandate. we've come up with a way to do it. and moving on from then, then we can act as a private company or as a postal service in a rational and efficient manner moving forward. >> and i just want to add, it's about being competitive. we are in a very competitive market, the postal service, and if you truly want this company to be efficient and competitive, then we as congress must recognize how we are tieing the
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hands of the postal service. i say to my colleagues very passionately, that we absolutely want the postal service -- which is covered -- you know, we used to -- when i was employed, i had to take an oath that i would protect the mail and make sure it's protected from foreign -- foreign agencies and how important and special it was to be an agent of the postal service. but then we tie their hands and then we criticize them. and one of the things that i want to talk about is the future of these packages. we know that drones and other industries are coming. but we consistently tie our hands and we see the other industries moving forward to embrace the ability to be competitive, to reduce costs, but we in the postal service -- we, i'm saying "we" because i'm a retiree, those in the postal
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service continuously fight against these restrictions, so we as congress must step up and take ownership of what we have created. and we have amazing opportunity now to remove some of those barriers as we hold the postal service accountable for fulfilling their role of delivery. and i have -- i'm over, so thank you. >> i thank the gentle woman. the chair recognizes the gentleman from missouri, mr. clay, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. do you know of any other government agency or private sector company that has to fully prefund the health care costs of its retirees? >> the issue you're asking about is whether anybody's quite like the postal service, and the issue is they are a unique organization designed to be a federal agency, an independent agency within the federal government and they are designed to be self-sustaining, so that's
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why they are in a different situation than other organizations. >> but 2006 postal accountability act improsed that requirement on the postal service, correct? >> that's correct. >> how much money has the postal service been required to pay in? has it been able to make all of these payments? >> to date the postal service has paid about $18 billion on top of the original money that was put in originally. they have missed $28 billion in payments as far as the retiree health benefits program. >> $28 billion is the value of the unfunded liability? >> no, sir. that's the amount of money the postal service has not put in. the amount of money unfunded is about $54 billion. >> i see. ms. brennan, i understand that 86% of the losses that the postal service accumulated between the years '07 and '11 are attributable to this prefunding requirement, is that right? >> that's right, congressman
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clay. >> do you believe that the pretend ipr prefunding mandate is unfair to the postal service and do you agree with mr. rolando? >> i agree with president rolando's comments. i think it's responsible for us to prefund, the challenge in the recent past was the accelerating payment schedule. going forward, though, the challenge for us is to ensure medicare integration. >> is modifying this prefunding requirement and a central part of the joint reform proposal to which the postal service, postal union, and certain mailers have agreed? >> yes, congressman, given that the prefunding requirement ends this fall, the challenge now is to address the larger issue of an unaffordable system for the postal service and our retirees. >> and how much money do you think this would safe tve the pl
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service? >> fully integrating with medicare for all of our retirees 65 and older would save us $17.5 billion over the next 5 years. >> i see. is it true that the postal service's retiree health care fund is already 50% funded? >> that's correct, congressman. we're better situated than most. >> and do you know what the current balance in that fund is? >> the current assets are over $50 billion in the rhb fund. >> wow. the prefunding requirement may have made sense back in '06, but it no longer makes sense to have the postal service comply with a requirement that would force it into insolvency. and just one question for more rolando. give me your overall sense of how the morale is among postal service workers today.
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>> the overall morale, we deal really in four different avenues, if you will, with the postal service depending on the level of engagement of each of the probably employee organizations. we deal in a collective bargaining arena, whereby obviously we're addressing things that are going to affect morale in terms of pay and benefits and working conditions. we work together in the arena of growing the business and making sure that its service is what it needs to be so we can face our customers every day. obviously that can be rewarding and frustrating at the same time. we deal together in a legislative arena as we're doing today to make sure that the postal service is here to serve the american people for many years to come. and then we deal in another arena that i will call the culture of the postal service. and i think that's an important
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thing that's been embedded for a long time, and the way it exists we certainly have commitment from the leadership of the poleal er pole al postal service and the unions, and it continues to address the morale of the postal service employees all over the country. >> thank you for that response. >> quickly, mr. chairman, thank you. i want to push back on a suggestion made earlier by one of my brothers across the aisle about the comparative value or the comparative performance of the united states postal system versus some of the international competition. there's a great report out by oxford university, the strategic consulting and they measured the efficiencies of the postal services in the g-20, the united states postal service came out the best and remarkably it's the only system in that top group that does not receive taxpayer
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funding. so, ours is doing better than all the rest, contrary to the statement made earlier, and remarkably the united states postal service scores the highest for efficiency even as it delivers far more letters per employee, 268,894 in the last study period than any other service in the g-20. japan came in second, and they -- and it's less than one-third of that. so -- and also we have universal service which a lot of these other countries don't have, so we deliver to every single location. and the only -- the only -- the only criticisms that the british study had was that unlike in siberia where their postal -- their post offices actually sell groceries, ours do not. but we have grocery stores that do that. we came out the best in this study. it was a very credible study and
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reported by cnn. i'd like to enter this as part of the record. >> without objection so ordered. >> i think the gentleman's time is expired. we'll recognize the gentleman from wisconsin for five minutes. >> thank you very much. chairman, one of the objectives of the current system and any new system that comes out of the rate review is to ensure we have high quality service standards. right now there's some indication we're struggling in that regard. if the postal service continues to have problems in that area, what action do you think the commission will take? >> the commission by law has what's called an annual compliance determination where annually we look to ensure that rates and fees in effect last year were in compliance as well as service standards were met. we just issued our most recent one just about a month and a half ago and we did find that service standards and dates were not meet. all of first class mail did not meet their targets.
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most of periodical mail and most of standard mail. we directed the postal service to come back in 120 days with a comprehensive plan particularly on the flats, periodicals and the standard and the first class flats, a 90-day report on first class letters and cards. once we get that back we'll assess next steps, but it was a directed study to bring attention which has been a trend that unfortunately hasn't been trending in the right direction so that's why this year we took shall we say a little bit more aggressive sta ivive stance to with a more focused reply. because service as the postmaster said is the basic standard that has to be met. >> okay. now a question for ms. brennan here. you know, we talked a lot about how the volume of mail has dropped over the last ten years from 213 billion to 154 billion. and we used 2006 as the base
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year. do you know what it was 10 years before that or 20 years before that? >> off the top of my head, i don't, congressman. i'll get the information for you. >> it was going up. the point i'm trying to make -- >> it was growing, sir, yes. >> it might have been 154 billion in 1986 or 1990? >> 2006 was the high point in terms of total volume in the system. >> what i'm getting at here i wondering if you are causing an artificial cause for a problem by grabbing the high year at 213 and we're at 134 so, of course, we'll have a crisis. maybe you were at 154 in 1980 and you weren't having a problem. do you know what i'm saying? >> i understand your point. >> but you don't know the answer. >> i would tell you it's not artificial the challenges that we face. >> one of the biggest capital investments you have and we had a hearing on this before is replacing the aging vehicles. what's the current status of
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that situation? >> we're currently in the technical review phase for the prototype vehicles. the plan is that we will determine one or more suppliers with multiple vehicle types that we'll test over roughly an 18-month period. different topographies and different climates and that will help inform our decisions as we move to the production timeline. >> okay. last time your guys were in here on this topic you said you were going to buy 120,000 new vehicles. is that still the plan? >> that would be the upper bound in terms of replacement and certainly given our financial situation and certainly the supplier's capability, we'd be looking to purchase and deploy roughly 20,000 to 25,000 a year. >> you're going to spread it out. >> multiple years, congressman. >> next question, what's the pay if i go to work for the post office, start out as a deliveryman, one of the guys or gals in the office, what is the
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starting pay for that? >> i will tell you the average work hour rate that i have off the top of my head is $41. >> pardon? >> average work hour rate, fully loaded, $41, if it was a noncareer employee, roughly $15 an hour. >> okay. so, if i get a job and i don't know if you got to work part time in the first place. if i get a job -- i don't know, do you start out as a mailman or not. but what do i expect starting as far as my pay? >> it would depend on the craft. if you were a letter carrier roughly $15 an hour for a supplemental noncareer employee. >> how about career employee? >> it would depend on if you're new roughly, probably $20, $25 an hour. >> $25 an hour. do those people get overtime? do you offer overtime? >> yes.
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absolutely, more than eight hours a day or more than 40 hours in a week consistent with the flsa rules. >> is that common? >> overtime can be in certain locales. it's seasonal. it depends on employee availability and mail volume and the like. >> what does your average mailman make right now? >> average salary? >> yeah. >> rough -- again, i'll provide that for the record. >> okay. my time is up. will yield the remainder of my time. >> wow, thank you. impressive. let that be a lesson to all of us that are still sitting here. we're very -- we'll give six minutes to the gentle woman from new mexico. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i really appreciate that. i'm going to change up what i was going to do a little bit because i really appreciate the comments that my colleague mr. lynch made.
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although i don't need that report. if you want to see the efficiencies of the post office go vest and do a ride-along with a letter carrier and you'll have no doubt that it's one othe most efficient systems in the world. and so thank you very much for that honor. and i plan to do more of that. particularly in the area that another one of my colleagues has already mentioned, ms. lawrence, that in this effort because of budgetary issues that we were consolidating and, ms. brennan, i heard that's on hold, but given the fact it's really hurt rural and frontier areas and disabled and senior populations that are traveling distances to get prescription drugs, i'm very happy to hear that's on hold. but in addition to that and the numbers that have already been talked about, 200,000 employees, more than 360 facilities consolidated. there's now a 2011 -- it's a little bit dated. but the gao report said if you reduce the level of services you
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are hurting your revenue stream. it's counterproductive. as you look at these issues, i would love it if you would give us further information in writing to this committee your efforts in modernizing services and addressing these issues given your i think unfair mandates that there's a healthy balance and we want to make sure, in fact, that we're building a revenue stream and at the same time continue to take appropriate actions to protect the populations who need the postal service in a way that i think is different than the average person receiving mail. so, if you would do that, i'd appreciate it. >> yes. >> and thanks for that update. the second thing i want to talk about that i think maybe a bit different than my colleagues have addressed. in my community, unfortunately, my district, my state, we're seeing a high number of vandalism and mail theft. i want to thank you for your
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work, particularly in albuquerque, but i'm concerned that with lack of personnel we have a backlog in those investigations. you don't get those investigations. we don't deal with the perpetrators. we don't deal with the perpetrators. see, we have this, we're on a merry-go-round in this situation as well so that it continues to occur at much higher rates than around the country. and i will tell you, you know, given our poverty issues and our other public health issues which i'll address later today in terms of substance abuse, it's a significant problem. and so it also creates safety issues for folks who are not dealing with this appropriately because of those backlogs and investigatory issues we're not replacing those damaged mailboxes. and i'd love for you to give me a sense about what you can do differently or if you've had any thoughts, or what do you need from congress to make sure you can address these what i'm going to call hot spots, if you will, so we can do something about it. >> yes, thank you,
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congresswoman. in terms of albuquerque and the of the we have, again, with the postal inspection service partners with local law enforcement and community members, we've got an anti-theft prevention-type campaign. we'll be happy to come up and brief you in more detail. because it is important to us. as we employ centralized boxes, we need to ensure that they're secure and we can minimize any potential theft there, but i'll be happy to give you more specifics. >> i'm happy to do that. but i really want you to think about and talk about if i've got more time, but i'm happy to give it back to the chairman because he's so good to me and i meant that genuinely. that i think it's important to think about it in a policy mechanism. because the truth is and, again, in my community, i love my community and i love my state and i love my district, but we have real challenges. you know, i've got a police force under dissent decree that has one of the lowest staffing in the country and is in real
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trouble in terms of recruitment and staffing. so, leveraging there is not leveraging. and the reality is we're not keeping up and we have a real public safety issue and we've got a confidence issue and it needs to be addressed so what else can we be doing and you got to take into account all those kind of circumstances, so the root is because those boxes are still damaged and we still have a problem, people don't have access to their mail. >> we need to correct that whether it's holding mail at the post office or looking at other ways to effect delivery. we don't want disruption in service. >> it's recognizable when you see all the damaged boxes in my community. it's a real problem. >> mr. chairman, i yield back my time. >> i thank the gentle woman. i appreciate it. i have some comments and questions, mr. lynch, and then we'll wrap up. mr. taub, give me your perspective on the prc. we're looking at a reform package. how would you reform or adjust
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what the prc does or doesn't do? what reforms are you looking for? >> mr. chairman, i think the most important thing, of course, is the financial balance sheet. that's the house that's on fire that has to be dealt with. in terms of postal regulatory commission, attached to my testimony is a study that mandated by law at least every five years a commission that looks at the entire postal accountability act of 2006 as well as the whole law and offers recommendations changes for the president and congress. we did that in 2011. we're in the midst of doing that report right now. the 2011 report did suggest a variety of possible opportunities where -- >> pardon me, but when do you anticipate that will be complete? >> we should have that complete by the end of the year. my hope is that this would be delivered to congress -- >> can you have it by the end of may? >> i wish. we just issued a call for public
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input and comment. a baker's dozen of issues. we asked the public to input by june 14th, so when the public gives us the input, then we have to put that together, so we will strive -- >> any preliminary suggestions? let me -- as chairman of this committee, let me give you an outline of where we're headed with this. we do anticipate introducing a suggestion draft of a bill soon. i anticipate that that will be available for perhaps two weeks unless there's some major hiccup. and then the intention is to introduce a bill, mark it up. we are actively trying to address the prefunding issue. we are -- obviously as we've heard from across the whole spectrum of the board, trying to deal with the medicare portion of that. it is amazing that, you know, $29 billion has been paid in since 1993 -- since 1983, and
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that has to be adjusted. if there are structural adju adjustments or suggestions or ideas that any of you have, we need to have those now. we have been meeting and hearing and listening and now we're having a formal hearing. but we need those as soon as possible. from the gao's perspective, i want to go to the board of governors and it's a little bit unfair to put any of you on the spot. but the gao, we can put you on the spot. how many board of governors are there? >> at this point, there's one board of -- >> out of? >> nine. >> that is the right answer. there's one out of nine. quite frankly, i can't figure out what in the world the board of governors does. so we are -- it's almost never fully staffed. one of the things that we are looking at doing is fusing the
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board of governors and the prc into one entity. if somebody has a problem or a challenge with that, has a different suggestion than that, let us know. but to have two separate groups, one of which is never fully funded -- or never fully staffed and literally has one person. they don't have a quorum. they can't operate. and yet nobody seems to mind. i don't get any complaints. so, that is one thing that i'm looking at that i'm just saying to the world, if you have a suggestion on that, let us -- >> mr. chairman? >> yes. >> just a personal observation from having been involved in it so long. the current structure sets the commission up as the regulator, not the operator or postal service. the 1970 when the old post office system was abolished the current governor and board was created to exercise the power of the postal service and represent the public interest generally. i would observe to the extent they are together, making sure, thinking through the issues of
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regulator versus operator, but beyond that observation. >> i still see the role of congress. i still see the role of the postmaster and i still see the role of the prc. but this extra layer does not make postmaster general? >> if i may, mr. chairman, and i appreciate your offer for insight on this, and we'll be happy to share it. i think the chairman outlined it well in terms of the differentiati differentiation of responsibility. my only caution is that it would be problematic for the regulator to become the operator. so that would just be the caution, but we're happy to provide some additional insight. >> and that's -- you want to triangulate the issue, but at the same time, i -- it is problematic when there is not a functional group, and there hasn't been for a while, and there doesn't seem to be any desire to get one. and so i'm just looking at structurally changing that. but duly noted, you don't want your regulator to also be your operator, and there does need to be an arm's length distance. there's also a role of congress.
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and we have to serve in some of those functions as well. mr. rolondo, kind of walk us through -- i don't know what time frame, but the unions have -- i mean, the enrollment is way down because in large part, the reductions in staff -- somebody's watching this for the first time, give them a perspective of how the unions have stepped up and have helped to address this problem, and there have been quite a number of staff reductions along the way. >> well, mr. chairman, as far as reductions, yeah, there's been a loss of 200,000 jobs in the last ten years. i think for the majority of the collective bargaining agreements now, no new employees come in as career employees. they come in as noncareer employees without any benefits, much lower pay, and have to wait for a career position to become available for them to be eligible for that.
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as far as -- and then the collective bargaining itself, it's a process that's worked well for a long time. in terms of negotiating agreements, whether by settlement or through interest arbitration. and as i mentioned before, there's other arenas that we deal with the postal service, for example, in the legislative arena. that's an extremely, i think, important thing that we do along with the mailing industry to be able to get a consensus together to move something through congress that's going to preserve the postal service in the future. so we have -- and again, i talked briefly before about being involved in the growth of the business and service and the networks and the value, working together to do that, you know, to the point of bringing in business to the postal service. and again, the fourth arena is just the whole culture of the postal service. >> thank you. ms. lawrence, let's -- let's talk about what you would like to see, first and foremost, out
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of congress. i know we've got your testimony and you've answered some questions, but give me the best synopsis you have on what you need people in congress to do. >> we need predictable and reliable mail service. so if you're going to say it's going to take two days, take three days to get there, we have perspectives that we do to interact with the postal service and have the most efficient mail possible. we need predictable, stable postal service prices, right? if we see rate shock or extreme conditions to raise revenues in order to cover the existing costs, mail will leave faster and faster, and they'll find other means to communicate. and then lastly, transparent costs. and i know both pricing and costing can be done currently at the regulator, and we're looking at the ten-year review to see if the current pricing mechanism is the right fit under the conditions. so, i mean, if congress were to do anything, i would say releasing some of the liabilities on the balance sheet
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is really what would help mailers going into the right review as well as help the postal service alleviate some of the pressures on the cap and be able to really concentrate on the service since that seems to be a large message that came across today. >> thank you. i appreciate it. the postal service, as i said at the beginning, serves a vital element of our commerce here in the united states. they have a monopoly and they have high fixed costs. when you have high fixed costs, you don't reduce services and raise rates and expect to solve your problems. what you need to do is move volume. you've got to make the post office more relevant in people's lives so that there's more volume that can move through the system. so again, raising rates and cutting services is not the way we're going to necessarily get there. now, i can tell you personally, i've migrated a long way the more i've studied where initially my inclination was five-day service, that sounds good, let's increase the number of postal holidays, that sounds
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good. but the more you dive into it, the more you realize that's not the way the economy is moving. what's happening is there's more e-commerce out there and people want to have their packages and goods delivered right to them right now. and so you see the amazons of the world and others are starting to expect saturday and even sunday delivery, and the post office is in a unique position but they're not monopolied to produce that. personally, i feel very strongly that the post office should not be participating in business that is also found on main street. i don't like selling coffee and t-shirts, with all due respect, other services that you can find down the street. i don't think that is necessarily the role of somebody who has a tax advantage, has a monopoly, and i have very deep concerns about that. the one thing that i haven't heard in the last couple hours of this hearing that i continue to harp on, and it's incumbent upon us, but also i think the post office itself is the
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government-to-government business. when i think of where do i go to get my passport, i think of the post office. that type of business arrangement needs to expand. it does at the state level, and it should at the federal level. it drives me crazy to no end that we go out and spend all this money on fema to try to remap the united states and have all these drug distribution facilities. we already got post offices and letter carriers and others that already know their community. they could walk those streets without the street signs. they don't need no special map. we've already done that with the postal service. and yet we spend hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, doing that. we have disaster with fema and others that happen, but we have to be prepared for that. but it's your post office, and your postmaster that's probably understands the area and the community better than anybody. i visited montezuma creek, utah, small place down on the navajo indian reservation. a dilapidated building, that
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local postmaster had been there for more than 20 years. she knows her community. she knows all the people. she knows people who speak english who don't speak english. she knows who rides in on a horse to get their mail. she knows the community. that's the type of the effort that the rest of the federal government should be engaged in. also, i want to continue to look -- and this committee has jurisdiction on the census. we're going to go out and spend billions of dollars on the census to try to recreate what the post office already has in place. and i can tell the postmaster's itching to speak here, so please. >> i'm sorry, mr. chairman, i did just want to -- a proof point to your comments. two, if i may. one was working recently with a midwestern city to provide information on vacant buildings through our address management system. another you mentioned the census. we did a pilot i mentioned earlier in the hearing out in arizona onboarding census workers, but we think there's an opportunity for us with the actual conducting of the census given in-person proofing either at the facility or on the
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doorstep with the technology we now have. >> your local letter carrier is going to far more understand that there aren't 15 people living in this house. i've been walking this street going to their door for the last seven years, and there aren't 125 peop15 people in this building. that type of thing and insight, they're going to spend the billions of dollars, let's send it smartly, and i hope this committee will further look at this. i've gone way over my time here. but i am excited to move this forward. again, i appreciate the work that mr. meadows, mr. lynch, mr. connelly and certainly mr. cummin cummings. and as we wrap up, i think mr. lynch, did you have -- let me yield to mr. lynch. >> very briefly. and i think there's a wonderful opportunity there with the postal service and the census. we're walking those streets already. so there's a way to, i think, maximize the skills and the expertise that the postal service has. i do want to push back a little
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bit again. you know, i cited the oxford report that said the united states postal service was the best in the world. and one of my colleagues indicated his belief that i haven't seen the study, but that we were the worst in the world. i think that the best -- the best judge of this is actually the customer is the american citizens. you know, the pew research center polled americans about their government. and i think mr. boyle brought this up. but the people of the united states in that poll said that the most trusted government employees in the united states today is the united states postal worker. and that's a tribute to you, postmaster general, and also to the unions and to the people who do that work every single day. so i just -- you know, i just want to say that they rank you, i think, 84. 84%. you were the highest of any government employees. congress was also on that study.
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and we were around -- we were around 6% between swine flu and the taliban. that's where congress came in. >> well, this committee -- this committee competes with the zika. so we're way down there. >> amen to that. but, you know, it is indeed ironic that we have a member of a body that has 6% approval criticizing the employees who have 84% approval rating in the eyes of our constituents. so i'll yield back. i'll leave it at that. thank you. >> thank you. i recognize mr. cummings. >> thank you all for your testimony. i just think that we -- we've got to get this done. i mean, we can go around in a circle forever and ever and be in the same place ten years from now. again, i want to thank all of you again for coming to the table. but i am interested in what the chairman said about government to government.
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do you see that -- i mean, growing or going postmaster general? >> sir, i do see opportunity there. i think another example that -- >> and how would we get there? how would we -- i mean, how would you -- >> we may need some support from you and the chairman on that, but i think some of the outreach effort we've had with some of the other agencies is a starting point, leveraging our infrastructure. i think another example is the tsa preverification for frequent flyers. there's an opportunity, i think, for us to handle some of that work as well. >> mr. chairman, if i may, mr. ranking member cummings, i think one of the key pieces, if the postal service is going to go down this road, is also the funding associated with that. and that goes to that larger issue of what is it that we want this government institution to do? and i know with a house on fire financially, we need to put that out. and the legislative process
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doesn't always lend itself to the ability to get to first principles. but if there's some way, whether in this round or the next, to think about what it is that this government institution must do and what are the costs associated with that and where does the revenue come in. my only concern would be to the extent that they take on more responsibility in this area, there's costs there. and if the associated funding doesn't go to it, then we're adding more of a burden to the postal service. >> hence my comment, robert, about may need some assistance from the chair and ranking member. >> i was just trying to get a little more explanatory. >> thank you. >> certainly we would not want you to go into something that is going to not yield a sufficient prof profit. that doesn't make any sense. and we certainly don't want to burden you with more obligations when the yield is simply to cost more. that's ridiculous.
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but i'm hoping that we'll be able to resolve some of these things. and as i said, soon. again, thank you very much. >> the final point i'd make on the government to government is that yes, these other agencies are funded with resources to execute on these things. and if they're going to spend money on them, they should be spending them and looking at the option of doing it through the postal service. i think the unions would appreciate that. i've got the physical infrastructure unlike any other entity to be able to do that. whether, again, passports, census. you are going to get a request from us to look at the financials of how the whole passport businesses work. but i look within my own district, the department of motor vehicles, you know, there are other state opportunities, not just the federal government opportunities where they need a physical location that's safe and secure and that people know where it is. so we've got a good, healthy hearing. we appreciate your participation. i hope the men and women of the
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postal service know that we care about them and that we are trying to do the best thing. but i agree with mr. cummings. it's time to do it sooner rather than later. with that, the committee stands adjourned. >> thank you.
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"book tv" has 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors every weekend. and here are some of the programs to watch for. this saturday morning at 10:00, we're live for the gaithersburg book festival. authors include a.j. dionne with
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"why the right went wrong." annette gordon reed and peter onuf on their book "most blessed of the patriarchs: thomas jefferson and the empire of imagination." juan williams with "we the people: the modern-day figures who have reshaped and affirmed the founding fathers' vision of america." james risen on his book "pay any price: greed, power and endless war." kristen green in her book "something must be done about prince edward county: a family, a virginia town, a civil rights battle." joanne bamberger with her book "love her, love her not: the hillary paradox." john norris on his book "mary mccrory, the first queen of journalism." and marlene trestman talking about her book "fair labor lawyer, the remarkable life of new deal attorney and supreme court advocate bessie mar golan" sunday night at 9:00 on "after words." >> for me the worst thing i've ever done was committed an act
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of murder in 1991. i shot and triy tragically cau man's death. it's by far one of the worst things you can do. you know, i made that unfortunate decision at the age of 19 and devastated a family, you know, took somebody's husband, a son, brother, a father from a family. you know, it's one of the things that stays with me to this day. and it's largely the reason i do some of the work that i do in the inner city because i never want another child to grow up with that type of burden because it's one of those burdens that never goes away. >> author of "writing my wrongs" discusses his 19 years in prison and his life after. go to for the complete weekend schedule. on "american history tv" on c-span3, this september marks the opening of the smithsonian national museum of
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african-american history and culture." and american history tv is live for an all-day conference with scholars from across the country discussing topics including african-american religion, politics and culture, historic preservation and interpretation. at 10:00 p.m. eastern on "real america," the 1975 church committee hearings convened to investigate the intelligence activities of the cia, fbi, irs, and the nsa. the commission hears testimony from two fbi informants, mary jo cook and how she penetrated an anti-vietnam war organization, and gary thomas row who infiltrated the klan and participated in violence against civil rights activists. >> you mean the birmingham policemen set up the beating of the freedom riders, and you told the fbi that? >> that's correct, sir. >> and then were they beaten? >> they were beaten very badly, yes. >> and did the birmingham police give you the time that they'd promise to give you to perform the beating? >> yes, sir.
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we were promised 15 minutes with absolutely no intervention from any police officer whatsoever. >> then at 8:00 on "lectures in history" -- >> what that opportunity gave them was an opportunity to go to college. they saved some of that money. they sent themselves through college. they sent siblings through college. they became doctors and lawyers. one became the first female manager of any department at northrop airlines. they became principals. surgeons. politicians. pilots. and they were able to do that because they had access to professional baseball. >> marshall university professor catt williams on how women aided the war effort in factories and military auxiliary units including the all-american girls professional baseball league
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that was featured in the movie "a league of their own" sunday night at 10:00 on "road to the white house rewind" -- >> ladies and gentlemen of the convention, my name is geraldine ferraro. i stand before you to proclaim tonight america is the land where dreams can come true for all of us. >> the 1984 vice president acceptance speech of new york congresswoman geraldine ferraro at the democratic national convention in san francisco. she was the first woman to be nominated for vice president by a major party. for the complete "american history tv" weekend schedule, go to sunday night on c-span, the state opening of the british parliament.
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queen elizabeth delivered a speech on the british government's priorities for the coming year. sunday night at 9:00 eastern, we'll show you a simulcast of bbc parliament's coverage of the state opening of the british parliament. georgetown university recently hosted a discussion with syrian refugees now living in the united states. they talked about the humanitarian situation in syria and the transition to living in the u.s. we'll also hear from state department officials who oversee the refugee process. >> now i'm very pleased to introduce actually dr. michelle gavudan listed here as mister, but he's also a medical doctor, who is going to be the event moderator from here on. he became president of refugees international in september 2010,
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leading our eye forward in its mission to bring attention and action to refugees and displaced people worldwide. prior to his role with our eye, he served as the united nations high commission on refugees regional representative for the united states in the caribbean. his career with unhcr has spanned more than 25 years including international service in africa, asia, latin america, and the pacific. as i mentioned, he is trained as a medical doctor in addition to holding a master's degree in tropical public health. michel spent a decade working in guyana, zambia, brazil, london and yemen before joining unhcr as a field officer in thailand in 1978. his u.n. career took him to field operations in cameroon, in
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pakistan, as well as several years at the agency's headquarters in geneva where he served as the first public health adviser to the organization. due to the time constraints, i'm not going to go through all the other wonderful things that he has done and the awards that he has received, but suffice it to say that he is a very outstanding individual. michel. >> thank you very much, mr. ambassador. good evening, everyone, and congratulations to the organizers. i think you've managed to turn out things quite impressive, so very nice work. and i think the fact that we have syrians on the panel certainly explains some of that success. so there are today 60 million people displaced by conflict and persecution and war in the world. 20% of these are syrians. this is just to put the syrian crisis at the size it has, and it has confronted the international community with tremendous challenges.
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it started i would not say well because the violence in syria was horrendous. but until 2013, there was hope among syrians that there would be a sort of political resolution in syria, as had happened perhaps in libya with an intervention by the international community, and everybody was -- all those people i visited there in jordan, in lebanon, in turkey, iraq, even in egypt, were saying, well, we are just waiting to go back as soon as we can. and the neighboring countries to syria were extremely welcoming. it's something we have not recognized enough, but they've admitted a large number of refugees essentially with welcoming arms. by the end of 2013, that started to change. we saw some disenchantment over the nonsolution in syria and the aggravation of the conflict, the aggravation of the number of fatali fatalities. today they reach over 450,000. let alone the number of people who have been maimed and wounded in that conflict.
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in 2013, we started seeing also that the warm welcome of neighboring countries was starting to cool down. and that has continued to evolve right thousanow to increasing ts between communities and refugees. the international community has tried to respond. the aid was not matching the increasing needs. and we were certainly not able despite lots of attempts to negotiate better access to the syrians who had not left the country. they're about 7 to 8 million displaced in their own country, not able to be very successful in providing assistance inside syria. so to a large extent, we, the international community, whatever it is, bickering or amorphous body is, we in the international community have failed the syrians to a very, very large -- very large extent. and the terrible images we saw last year happening in europe
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sort of pointed out to the fact there is a syrian crisis. that was the tip of the iceberg that had been brewing for a long time and basically donors not always responding as they should have to the calls of the united nations to increase -- to increase assistance. the crisis was well before the images we saw in europe. and what we have to think about is that we are all focused now on people who left syria who took the tremendous risks and the courage to get into these leaking boats to try to find a better future. but these are those who could afford to pay the smugglers. what about those who are left behind and who cannot even take the courage for these trips or try to imagine a different life? and i think this is what we want to discuss a little bit tonight. i'm really thrilled that for once, we have a panel that has policy wonks but also operational wonks. they are not only policymakers. they really try to respond to
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the needs of the syrians. we have a very representative group of syrians to tell us how they see the crisis because in the policy world, we tend to think that we know what they need after all. and at the time when the whole issue of accountability to the people we care for should be developed much more i think is nice. we have a chance in the public forum to confront a little bit how we see things and how the efforts that had been made match with the expectations of the syrians. so thank you very much for this organization. maria, i don't think you need introduction. you were introduced by the ambassador very well. i would just add that business administration degree and a great talent in music, i can only foresee your career. so that's very well done. george batah in the middle. george is a young professional, and he's a syrian activist who moved to the u.s. in 2013. 2013, again, this famous date.
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you know when everything started going really down the drain. he lives and works in chicago. he has carried out a suggestionful petition to increase the number of syrians resettled to the u.s. and given the mood this year in the u.s., i think that's very well done. you must have really had to push the rock up a very steep hill. so congratulations. we still think the numbers are not enough. i think we'll hear about that. but very well done. you were invited to the white house a couple of times. and your work has been featured on cnn, washington post, and the huffington post. you are also the co-founder of the syrian youth empowerment and empowering high school students in syria and neighboring countries, a very nice initiative to keep hope going on among this population. congratulati congratulations. ahmed vitar is a man who plays different instruments. he's an entrepreneur, he's a journalist, he's a translator.
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he has more than indicated existence working for the voluntary sector, the ngo sector in syria, and he established the first online platform to try to get all the volunteers who wanted to help their own people in syria to understand what they could do, where to go, et cetera. so very creative initiative which is called the eye on aleppo. and you had -- i'm just reading -- up to 20,000 followers. so that's a fairly quick achievement for that achievement. in "the post" with various awards including the best global initiative in 2011. you have been given -- when the civil war started, you came to the u.s. you now have a green card, so congratulations. >> i also came in 2013. >> in 2013, okay, the famous year that we'll probably discuss more in the course of this evening. you received a fellowship award
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to come to the u.s. and congratulations. shelly peterman is regional representative for the u.s. and caribbean. he has a very long career. he has extensive postings in africa, in burundi, in kenya, in the sudan. and i don't want to missny. in guinea. he has held key positions at headquarters. he was at the time the head of the resettlement office. so he understands how resettlement works and in particular how it works in relation to the u.s. large resettlement country. and he was, before coming to washington, the head of the human resource division, a job that very few people want to take. and then simon, last but certainly not least, simon hensho is a principal deputy assistant secretary of the bureau for population refugees and migration at state department. this is the bureau that really oversees old refugee program,
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the u.s. is the largest funder and has been so for the past 30 years of refugee programs. it is a department that is extremely mobile, extremely active. the head representatives in the field, they cooperate very well with international ngos and with the u.n. and when i was in the u.n., they were very close partners. simon has a master of science in national security affairs from the national war college, but he has a very long career in the state department. he was the director of indian affairs at the city department prior to this job before that, he was deputy chief of mission at the u.s. embassy in honduras, and he has held various positions in brasilia, st. petersburg, so a large, large diplomatic experience. i am thrilled -- >> you're saying i'm old. >> i'm sorry? so i'm thrilled to have you all here on stage tonight. i will have to make sure that everybody respects the time so
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everybody has a fair share of the evening. and we'll start with you. >> it gives me great pleasure to be here with you today. thank you so much for georgetown university for inviting me. it's truly an honor to be here with you sharing my story. it's just about two or three years ago i was still struggling in syria. i was struggling badly to flee the country, to find any way to leave. i was one of these young people in syria with their dreams were vanished and demolished in the war. the taste of happiness fades daily, and the principal concern transforms into a question of whether or not we'll be able to see the morning next day. i mean, there is nothing worse than experiencing this every minute over there. my parents are still living there, struggling badly with no electricity, with no water.
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however, i try to call them every day just to make sure that they are still alive. i feel i'm speechless to change the current situation over there. just about last week, hundreds of innocent souls were killed in such a savage civil war. during the time i was still living in syria, i studied business administration, and i graduated from the university of aleppo. i was also employed as a violin teacher at the arabic institute of music. music has always been my passion. when i was 20 years old, i went to london to audition in person for a master of music perform anticipat performance. i got in with a scholarship, but sadly the war in syria prevented me to make my dream a reality. as the last class in alaleppo w
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postponed three times. i was so disappointed, but i did not lose my hope, and i did not give up. i realized that i need to work so hard to find other opportunities. i kept searching online. i spent months and months searching. i was running between internet cafes under mortars, missiles, rockets, just to send my applications. i applied everywhere to a lot of different programs in a lot of different places. and one day i got a magical e-mail from monmouth college that they accepted me for their music program with a scholarship, with full tuition scholarship. i was amazed. i was beyond happiness. but even with such a huge scholarship, affording room and board which were not covered by the institution, was a great challenge. this is because my parents had
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lost their jobs in the war, and they couldn't even support me with one dollar. i kept searching online, and i found about an organization called jusour, and they are supporting syrian refugees and syrian students by giving scholarships. i reached out to them, and through them, i was in touch with a very fine man from saudi arabia who was very impressed with the papers that i sent them from monmouth college and the music videos. and he wanted to help me in hope that one day i will be able to help my fellow syrian friends. although i feel safe in the united states, i'm constantly deeply concerned about my family and friends in syria. we have a great human potential, but we are in need of your help and support more than any time ago to build up a good atmosphere to flourish.
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my best friends graduated recently. they are architects. they are doctors. but their lives is full of mystery. and it's threatened with this daily. actually, one of my friends in syria, she reached out to me. her house was burned. she went to turkey. she couldn't continue her education. she reached out to me if i can help. and i made the proposal to monmouth college. they welcomed the idea. and they accepted her on also a full scholarship. and now she is sophomore. and i'm truly grateful that i was able to do something. but is this enough? i don't think so. since i arrived to the united states, i have been working so hard to achieve success in the music world. i was granted asylum in the
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united states, and i received my green card last year. and i feel it's truly an honor to be in this great country, the country which has given me my future and my life. and honestly, i can't thank the american government enough for making my dream a reality and for saving my life. i performed at the kennedy center last year, and i was honored at the white house champion of change 2015. i also performed last month, and i spoke at the united nations in geneva. tomorrow i'm heading to london to perform at cate blanchett's place, and -- yeah, it's a great opportunity. she is holding a major fund-raising event for unhcr. i'm also now in touch with international of education, iie.
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they are also very interested to have a fund-raiser program. and i feel this is the least thing i can do to be able to show my gratefulness to all these people who have supported me enormously to be here with you today. today i considered myself as not just a legal illegitimate syrian citizen but also a woman. all that we need and all that we dream of is a peaceful life and the hope for a better tomorrow. american culture has impacted me in so many ways, and they made me more believe in our humanity. i feel powerless to change the current tragedy ongoing in syria. but i would love to be a peace ambassador to my country and deliver a beautiful message through every performance i do.
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i feel that music has the power to unite us. i can prove this when i perform jewish music, and i'm christian myself, and i perform for muslim community. i hope music will one day help healing the pain our world has felt. lastly, i want to make a statement that i'm christian myself, but the relationship between muslim and christians in syria is old and gold. we form a beautiful harmony. we help each other. we support each other. we are one, and we will always be. thank you so much. >> thank you. well, quite a musician but quite a speaker also. very touching. thank you so much. george? pushing the u.s. to resettle more refugees. what weapons do you use? >> well, i'll start by just
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telling you how my life was in syria. for many of you and for many people i meet here in the u.s. just do not have any perception or how -- or any understanding of how life was there. i'll tell you a little bit about my life, but then i'll tell you about the kind of thoughts that i have on daily basis because of what is happening in my country. i think it's a very powerful tool to communicate what are we feeling as syrians? what do i feel about my country? what do i feel about the international reaction to what is happening in syria? so i will gladly be sharing this with you. so i was born and raised in syria. we -- the one fact that many people do not know or do not expect is that we had a very normal life. we used to go to restaurants. we used to go -- we used to go
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to the beach. we used to do everything that you guys do here. we used to go to universities, form friendships, have girlfriends, everything that you can imagine. so it is not the country that some people would imagine, the backward country that -- the image that isis, like, tried to kind of enforce or reflect right now. so i consider myself as a person who had a wonderful childhood in syria. all my -- all the great memories that i have are very beautiful country that i love a lot, and i appreciate a lot, and i enjoyed a lot. however, when things started to happen in 2011, everything changed. and this change that we had as individuals and especially as young people is huge. because you -- you're from a very safe country where you had everything you wanted, basically.
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of course, we had worries and we were -- worry about a future and everything and a lot of shortcomings and concerns, but you turned into a war. you are now living in a war. as mariela said, on a daily basis, you experience those feelings of fear. on a daily basis, i remember, like, sitting on the news to see if someone like, we know died. whenever we'd hear a bombing, we would be, like, starting -- like checking on facebook and asking each other, like, do we know anybody who happened to be in the location of this bombing? so it is -- it turned into -- from a very normal life to very not normal life. where it is dictated by fear, dictated by uncertainty, dictated by all the other problems that young people like me would have. what am i going to do about the future?
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what am i going to do if i lose someone i love? what would i do if someone from my family dies? those are very real questions. that we had to go through. so i can tell you, i can assure you that there's not one syrian who -- who wasn't -- whose life wasn't disrupted by the war. whether from losing someone you care about or you love, whether from getting your building bombed or they're losing years of your life. are you waiting till the next step that is never there that you would never -- it will ever come? all of those changed us as individuals. so for me, as a person, i was very, very, very lucky, and i
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still count myself as one of the luckiest syrians because through the same organization that mariela mentioned where i was given the opportunity to move to the u.s. in 2013 to transfer to illinois institute of technology. so i was given, like, just a golden chance of rebuilding my life. i was given this opportunity. along with 32 other students. so here, once we got here, we always have this feeling that we are -- we should carry this -- we should do something. we feel that no one really cares. everyone really cares. of course, you do. everyone. like the governments of the worlds, they do care. in london, a few months ago, they pledged $10 billion. they do care. but how would i tell that to one of my friends when they told me that their life is over? i cannot translate the 4 billions that the u.s. donated for the person who lost every
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confidence in the future. i cannot say it to a girl who lost her parents. i just can't. it's just very -- it's very difficult. so we feel that we -- like i personally feel that as a syrian, i have a responsibility. and i have a duty to do something to help, like, create this opportunity for those people. so -- and this -- i felt that the 33 students who came to chicago do share with me this vision, that we do have responsibility. we want to do something. and we're all very eager to succeed just to prove that we as syrians -- and not what you maybe -- you know about us. it's not what you read about us in some outlet. we are just normal who can do normal things. and just to give a very tiny example, those 30 students, some of them got offers from google, from apple, from goldman sachs,
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from every big company -- and that is very difficult. like if you came to the u.s. in two years and tell me that you are now a software engineer at google, i probably would not believe it. but they are working so hard. they are doing -- like the extra step just to prove to the world, this extra -- there's this extra motivation for us to prove to the world that we're normal. and then at the same time, that also drives us to do things, to drive positive change to other syrians, to drive positive -- and what drove me to start this petition. i was very, very frustrated that no one was doing anything. no one was saying anything. it was like a problem that was very isolated from the u.s. political scene or from the u.s. humanitarian scene. so i wanted to do this, and i did it. and i did it with many bunch --
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a group of amazing people who helped us carry this forward. and i'm very grateful for the administration for listening to us. after all, we are, like, who cares about an immigrant who came from syria two years ago? but i felt appreciated and i felt that my voice was heard. so that is a step in the right direction. of course, the numbers, they always can be bigger, and we're always trying to do that. at least it was a step in the right direction. so some of the thoughts that i constantly have, do we deserve in syria what is happening to us? this is a question that i constantly ask myself. do we deserve the lack of engagement from other countries or the lack of interest, like american people, european people in our causes? my answer is maybe yes. we don't have -- we never had a civic society that can carry
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those causes and those topics forward. but what i'm trying to say right now is that we need help to create this civic society that we never had. and sometimes, like as governments or administrations, they tend to focus a lot on humanitarian response. and they forget about the human aspect of the things. so they focus on the humanitarian aspect but not on the human aspect. there is a lot of -- i'll just give you an example. for thousands of syrians who are here in the united states, it takes years to process their asylum applications. so you know how difficult and how challenging this could be for a person who doesn't know if in two years will be deported. like on top of everything that you as an individual have to
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care about your career, your work, your relationship, your family, you also have to -- you don't really know if you'll be deported. so it is not the ideal situation that would help those eager people to do things because they just simply do not know if they can do it. another example is that we as syrian youth empowerment, so it's an initiative where we help syrian students in syria. high school students in syria to -- we offer them free s.a.t. classes. and then we provide the mentorship, and we work with universities to try to get them scholarships. and we have just started, but we work with some students informally. and there's one yesterday that got his visa, and he's going to harvard and another guy to m.i.t. so i'm very excited. i just wanted to announce it now. so but for this very tiny organization, that we're obviously trying to do something meaningful for those people to
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build the civic society that we aspire in the future to have the people who are ready. we are facing tremendous, tremendous obstacles. one is the finances. so -- and by finances, i don't mean fund raising. if i want -- if they want to transfer me the money so i can transfer it to somewhere else, it's just that -- it would be a disaster. i just cannot do that because my name would be somewhere -- like someone will check my name. and as a syrian, i cannot do that. so the law doesn't help me to have this financial flexibility. the second thing is the visa. so i talked to many visa officers who served in different countries. and they told me about the system which is the system. i'm not saying that i want favorable, like, treatment for syrians, but it's just very, very, very difficult. even if you get, like, full
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scholarship from harvard, you might be denied easily. because the laws that, like, passed in congress 40 years ago does not -- there are a lot of complications that would make it way more difficult to give someone a visa from a country that has war no matter how promising he is. so those are the things that i think about. those are the things that i care about. and those are the things that i try to mobilize people to always take action, do something because what happened to me through josour is in a one way or another helping the 45,000 refugees who will come here because -- because i -- our group advocated for those people. those people who will come here maybe one day will build the syria that we aspire. it might be the people who would transfer the western values to the middle east. those might be the people who
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would be the next doctors and the next lawyers and the next journalists and the next philosophers that will help us build -- build the civic society and build this platform. so this is what i wanted to share with you. and thank you. >> george, thank you very much for reminding us that syria is not what we see every day on our screen, and there is a much deeper soul to it. and that was very powerful. and thanks for your hope for civil society, and that really brings me -- and congratulations for the successes you just mentioned. these are great news. but you're bringing us to our next speaker, to ahmed. today in syria we'll talk about how to give assistance. we talk to those inside syria who helps their own people are syrians because no foreigner can even dare to take the risk that
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you would have to incur to go inside syria. ahmed, beyond your personal story which i'm sure you will tell us about, how is this movement of civil society developing inside syria? i'm quite impressed every time i go in the region to see how fired up they are despite the tremendous odds they face. >> thank you very much. actually, i love being here in georgetown because, like, when i arrived to the u.s., the first place i stayed in was the georgetown hotel and conference center. so whenever i came here, i remember all these happy memories about, like, having a future. just three years ago, let's say the 5th of may, 2013, i will give you, like, my diary. like let's say you're reading my diary, and you are reading about the 1st of may, 2013. dear diary. i woke up today. i checked my phone to see if there was electricity to charge it because we barely have electricity for, like, one or two hours per day.
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i opened the tap to wash my face, and there was no water. so i had to take from our stored water, and i tried to clean up my face, brush my hair and be as clean and decent as a human being should be. then imagine that you are living your home, like crossing the building, and then start running. why? because there is a sniper who is two miles away and he's shooting every movable object. just because he sees somebody like me with his athletic body, he will be zooming that with some part to our fighting against him. so he was shooting me. and i start -- and there were many times i hear, like, the voice of those bullets close to my ears even when i was with my mom. they ask why they are shooting. nobody knows. i can't ask him. and why they are still there? because where we can go? my day usually starts with going to a school where i used to work in refugee.
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even though i was in the city where there were, like, huge fights and conflicts, but because of my work as an ngo and volunteer and many other organizations, i was an intern in unscr in syria. i worked with, like, palestinians, iraqis and lebanese. but i never imagined that one day i would work with syrian refugees or, let's say, to be more specific, displaced people. i had, like, always 12 to 15 hours of working. i used to go to a school nearby where there is 1,000 displaced people. we used to give them food items, organize them. i don't know how to describe that. it's beyond any imagination. like imagine a big school where each class has at least 25 to 30%. in just a couple of square feet
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space. and i was the person who was responsible to put them there. and even beyond, like, they barely can be able to sleep there. but we had no other choice since the school number were limited, and we have to put as much people as we can. people in my city, like i had to leave because i was a journalist. even though i was not writing or criticizing the regime or the other part, but i was well known, respected in my community, and that's why i was offered to work for the regimes as a reporter for the syrian television, which i refused. and also al nusra offered for me to work for them, and also i refused. so actually, being in the middle, not being with any part, makes the other people think that you are with the other part. so you always receive threats. so my goal each day was surviving until the end of the
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day. and just like in the story, but it's not at midnight at sunset, you have to go home. otherwise clashes will start over. and what we call the party at least to make it, like, pleasant term. what we mean sound of bullets, the sound of everything. everything started by the sunset. and last during the whole night until the next day. one of the memories i have there where i stayed in my building where there is a tank next to my building shooting the other part. and it was so noisy, but i had no other choice because if i want to believe my building, i was trapped because if i want to leave my building, there was a sniper. and then after ten days of no electricity and, like, with some food and my small cat who was trying to understand what is going on, we try to get our chances and we start running across the fire of, you know, that sniper. i don't know what to add. like, they said everything.
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sometimes i have this memories, flashbacks like, you know, those kind of memories like i was remembering when i was covering a concert in one of those church in aleppo. that's where i met mariela for the first time back six years ago. these kind of memories, they always come to you. they always put you in a very bad mood. like, i feel like anything i will do, success will be nothing compared to what i did back home. however, i would like also to thank the u.s. government for two things. first, i came in fellowship sponsored by u.s. department of state and irs, it's called community solution. i was the first and the only syrian who got accepted into that. and we were supposed to learn about the community and then go back and, you know, try to adopt things we have learned here in syria. unfortunately, when i came here, you know, the chemical weapon incident just started and suddenly the u.s. threats of
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intervening in syria, and as a journalist who was, you know, writing and who has, like, 20,000 followers, you know, they thought i'm here to be trained on some sort of spying or game, so it was so dangerous for me to return. so i had to start a new life here. so sometimes when they ask are you, like, a refugee or something, i said, i'm technically a refugee since i'm forced to live -- i have been forced to leave my country. otherwise i would stay there. why should i leave? but being here -- dangerous. i had to stay here. the u.s. government gave me a future by accepting me here, by give me to be here as a permanent resident and green card holder. so this kind of thing, they gave me hope. otherwise i would be either arrested or killed or kidnapped somewhere because i refuse to raise arm against anyone else.
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violence will not solve anything and it's not my only point of view. there are, like, hundreds of thousands of people believe in this same thing. which is why being here, why my friends and colleagues have been here. we are trying to convince the american people that not all syrians believe in violence. not all syrians wants to be the regime or opposition or al nusra or whatever. if we have a couple of hundreds made poor choices by being in those parts, like by being with isis, doesn't mean that all the syrians are bad. i'm here. i have a gad life. i'm working as a freelance and i'm working for -- i'm trying to be an advocate. i'm trying to promote the syrian cause. i try to take advantage of being here to attend events about syria and syrian refugee. so i used to stand up in every event and say, look, i'm syrian, i don't cause any threats. as you can see i'm not this
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stereotypical, you know, perspective about syria, the people that you used to see in movies, the bad guys who will bomb everything, who will have this bad mentality. so i used to stand up, even saying silly questions or, like, nothing, but just i wanted to make people know that, yeah, there might be syrian among you and might be noticing them and they will not do anything bad to you. and i try to do that since joining -- i'll be honest, joining organizations, syrian organization here in d.c., it's like, risky, because they only cause -- trying to have scores. like, blaming this part, blaming the other part. saying the regime, its fault. no, it's isis. it's not like this. it has been five years. so i think nobody is right and the other is wrong. there is no ultimate villain who if we eliminate him everybody will be happy. the hero will kiss the heroine and, yeah, we have the end.
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we have a crisis now. we have a civil war with people fighting, trying to kill each other. so all we have to do now is try to save those who have potentials and refuse to be dragged into this vacuum of violence. try to improve them. try to give them the ability to be heard and to be -- how many times? really? so i would like to thank you to be here and i'm celebrating that just like a couple of hours ago, my city aleppo has a cease-fire for just 48 hours so my family is still safe for 48 hours hopefully. and lastly, i would like to ask you something. if it's not puzzling to you. i'd like all of you to stand up for a moment of silence for all those who got killed in my city and i'm hoping that the others don't have the same fate. [ moment of silence ]
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thank you very much. [ applause ] >> ahmad, we would listen to you for much more time if we had it. i know it's painful to bring to us the angst that all of you are living, your relatives and family still living in syria. thank you for -- >> we all have families. i try to talk about a different perspective. my family is still there. just like mariela talking with them every hour to check if they're alive and they have horrible stories about what's happened and bombs and bullets and everything. >> thank you. shelley, i forgot to mention
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when i introduced shelley, for a few years in his short career, he was the head of operation for the united nations relief operation in jordan, dealing with palestinian refugees. just to emphasize he has experience in the middle east. and shelley, when things are difficult for refugees, the world tends to blame -- in the case of the syrian crisis i think former high commissioner and current high commissioner have tried to raise the alarm repeatedly. what sort of challenge did you face when you raised that alarm? what's your experience? >> thank you, michel. in fact, it was about a year ago when we in this same library, this beautiful library. the former high commissioner was here and i'm afraid some of the points i'm going to make he had to make last year and the year before much more eloquently i'm
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sure. after all, he was the high commissioner. the new high commissioner is felipo grande, is doing the same. the first thing that unites us, i think, the whole u.n. system of which unhcr is just one part, is the wish for peace. that has to happen. all that we do in cooperation with ngos, with nongovernmental organizations, and there are hundreds of them big and small, national, syrian and international, american and european and from elsewhere. all that we do is somehow try to relieve the pain but the solution is peace. and 48 hours simply isn't enough, that's for sure. against the background of continued failure to actually come to some resolution to the
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war, and it's a mega war. it's not just in syria. it's also next door in iraq and there are risks, of course, of spillover beyond. until such time as the war does come to an end, our mantra as the refugee agency is, of course, that the international community must find ways for refugees and asylum seekers to find safety. to have access to territory. to be able to be able to move and to be able to make their claim. to hear their story so that they're not subject to forcible return and they're able during the time that they are forced to be in exile to have as normal a life as possible. and michel was talking about 2013 as being kind of a watermark year. and in fact, it's true that over the last couple of years in the
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absence of sustained investment, our budgets are all underfunded quite significantly, notwithstanding the very generous support from the u.s. taxpayer and the u.s. congress and in particular through the state department. notwithstanding refugees are suffering the consequence and that finally led to impoverishment. we have data from the world bank, from unhcr, clearly reflecting that refugees in jordan, in lebanon, are in a big way, i mean, we're talking major, 80%, the 90% are living below the poverty line. that is a progressive impoverishment and sustained despair that created the situation that led so many hundreds of thousands of people to try to find another place where they could put their children in school. it was not more complicated a


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