Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Murkowski, Begich want more studies on mail change

FAIRBANKS — Senators from Alaska and Hawaii want field hearings in their states before the Postal Service makes a decision to reduce mail delivery to five days per week.

The Postal Regulatory Commission is studying the proposal, which would eliminate Saturday mail service and save the debt-ridden Postal Service more than $3 billion per year.

The commission will hold hearings on the proposal in seven major cities in the Lower 48, but Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii said those hearing will not address the concerns of the two noncontiguous states.

“As you are likely aware, mail delivery in Alaska and Hawaii is very different from the other 48 states, as is our constituents’ reliance on that mail delivery for basic and necessary items,” reads a letter to the chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission signed by all four senators.

According to the letter, the senators said they have received few comments from Alaska and Hawaii residents about a reduction in mail service, but they are concerned about “the likely degradation of efficient and timely delivery of medication, food, water and other necessities,” to remote parts of the states.

Begich spokeswoman Julie Hasquet said that given Alaska’s uniqueness and location, the senator believes the commission should at least hold hearings in the state before making such a big decision.

Mike Brumas, spokesman for Murkowski, said she has concerns about the effects the change in mail service could have on seniors and Alaskan companies.

“... Because many people get their medications through the mail, these customers may have to pay a higher price to have another carrier deliver a prescription or, in some cases, drive up to 40 miles round trip to pick it up at the post office,” he said. “Companies which have built their business models around six-day delivery may be forced to use higher cost shipping alternatives.”

Clinton: Fort Greely missiles safe from cuts

Ground-based missile defense systems, such as the one at Fort Greely, will not be affected by an arms reduction agreement signed by Russia and the U.S., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week.

“The treaty does not constrain our missile defense efforts,” Clinton told the Senate Armed Services Committee, which counts Alaska Sen. Mark Begich as a member. “Those of you who worked with me on this committee know my strong support of missile defense, so I want to make this point very clearly.”

While the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty mostly limits nuclear arms between the two countries, a provision in the treaty also prohibits converting offensive missile launchers into defensive interceptors. It does not ban either country from building new missile defense launchers like 14 being built in Alaska, Clinton said.

Following Thursday’s hearing, Begich said he was pleased with the secretary’s comments.

“Especially at a time of high tension with North Korea, Alaska’s missile defense system is important to Alaska and America’s defense,” Begich said. “I welcome Secretary Clinton’s assurances that the system is outside the provisions of the arms treaty and important to the Obama administration.”

Source: By Chris Freiberg. Published July 20, 2010