The huge corporation, which employs 656,000 workers and uses 260,000 vehicles, is the second-largest civilian employer in the U.S., trailing only Wal-Mart.
Potter's report, described by the Washington Post as "a worst-case scenario cry for help" projects $238 billion in losses during the next 10 years if lawmakers, postal regulators and unions don't allow more flexibility in setting delivery schedules, price increases and labor costs.
The estimates released Tuesday also predict that letter carriers will deliver just 150 billion pieces of mail in 2020 - a 26 billion-item drop from 2009.
The Postal Service paid $4.8 million for four months of research conducted by three private-sector consultants to envision up to 50 potential options for future growth and cuts.
How the postal service deals with the proposed ideas will shape the cost, frequency and, in large measure, the competitive quality of mail delivery nationwide and in Northeast Mississippi:
* Officials plan to create new products, services and modes of delivery, including "hybrid mail products" that allow some deliveries via e-mail.
* The Postal Service wants the Postal Regulatory Commission to give it more pricing flexibility and may use some price jumps that can occur temporarily to raise emergency funds. The agency will also consider raising rates on periodicals, nonprofit mail, media and library mail, and combined deliveries.
* Three service level considerations are under review: delivery time, delivery frequency and delivery locations. The Postal Service believes this is the year lawmakers will cut Saturday mail deliveries, an idea fought for decades as proposals or rumors swelled into public view. Polls show 50 to 70 percent of customers support the cut, a view probably localized because reliance on the postal services varies from place to place.
* The Postal Service wants to close thousands of post offices in the coming years, another not-new idea, and then move some postal products and services to nearby supermarkets, pharmacies or coffee shops.
* The workforce: More than 300,000 postal workers will either retire or leave in the next decade, Potter said. The agency plans to take advantage of that trend by increasing its use of part-time or flex workers.
While some painful changes will be required, postal customers have a right to ask, "Why wasn't it fixed as developments demanded?"