General Services Administration Mail Communications Policy Office Mail Center Security Guide

What are the Responsibilities of the Mail Manager in a COOP?

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What are the Responsibilities of the Mail Manager in a COOP?

The following are key suggested questions that the COOP should address for mail:

  • Should an alternate facility will be planned for incoming and/or outgoing mail.

  • How quickly should the alternate facility be ready to operate?

  • How much of the original operation will be reconstituted in the alternate facility?

What are the Objectives of a COOP for a mail facility?

  • Ensure the safety of associates during an emergency.

  • Ensure the continuous performance of essential functions/operations during an emergency.

  • Reduce or mitigate disruptions to operations.

  • Protect essential facilities, equipment, records, and other assets.

  • Reduce loss of life and minimize damage and losses.

  • Facilitate decision-making during an emergency.

  • Achieve orderly recovery from emergency situations across wide range of potential emergencies or threats, including acts of nature, accidents, technological, and attack-related emergencies.

  • Mitigate risks.

COOP background documents

COOP is a good business practice, and part of the fundamental mission of agencies as responsible and reliable public institutions. Since 1988, a number of documents have built the foundation for COOP in federal agencies:

  • Executive Order 12656 assigned responsibility for national security emergency preparedness to Federal departments and agencies.

  • Presidential Decision Directives 39, 62, and 63 addressed counter-terrorism, terrorism, and critical infrastructure.

  • Presidential Decision Directive 67 specifically addressed COOP in 1998.

These documents are available for download at:

Fly-away kits

To be prepared for various types of breaches of security or different types of emergencies, each mail center should have a “fly-away kit.” At a minimum, this should consist of COOP checklists (see Section XII below, key contact lists, diskettes or CDs with critical files, any specialized tools that are routinely used, maps to alternate sites records, and any other information and equipment related to an emergency operation. A “fly-away kit” should contain those items considered essential to supporting contingency operations at an alternate site. You should designate a key official and one or more alternates to pick up the kit in an emergency. You should also keep a duplicate fly-away kit at your backup facility.

The COOP should be tested on a quarterly basis. Verify that all the information is up-to-date, that contacts, facilities access, and the call trees are correct.

VIII. Review of the Security Plan

Initial Review

An excellent method of ensuring that your plan is complete is to have it reviewed by external resources. Examples include consultants, the Federal Protective Service, agency security service, and a peer review.

As a minimum, the plan review should provide a written report that covers:

  • Location(s) surveyed

  • A critique of the formal plan

  • Training audit

  • Analysis to determine if employees are following established procedures

  • Background of the organization conducting the review

If you desire, the GSA Mail Communications Policy office will coordinate a peer review of your operation, employing senior members of the Interagency Mail Policy Council. These reviews will only be conducted if requested by the agency or mail center manager. All results from the review will be held confidential, with all copies being handed over to the requesting official.

If you would like GSA to coordinate a review, please send a written or e-mail request to the Director, GSA Mail Communications Policy. In your request, please include the desired dates of the survey, an alternate start date, identification of the organization to be surveyed, and the point-of-contact name and phone number.
The mailing address is:
General Services Administration

Mail Communications Policy Program (MTM)

1800 F Street NW Suite 1221

Washington DC 20405-0002

The e-mail address:

Annual Review

Once a year or if there are any changes, you should review all aspects of your security plan. Pull them out, read through them, and consider carefully whether any aspect should be updated. Circumstances change, and the information on protecting your mail center and your agency continue to evolve as we travel together in this new world of homeland security. Re-evaluate your last rehearsal to determine any training needs that might have emerged as a result. Train your personnel and rehearse your plan.


Many agencies use contractors to process their mail, either as outsource providers that manage mail centers or as letter shops that consolidate and/or presort outgoing mail. It is important to remember that mail center security remains the responsibility of the agency, even when a contractor takes over part of the process. Contracts should specify security procedures that the contractor and contract personnel must follow.

Consider addressing the following as part of the process of contracting for mail services:
Process – The vendor should provide copies of all written procedures on how mail is handled.
Timeliness standards -- These will reduce opportunities for mishandling.
Security – The contract should specify the steps the vendor will take to provide the best possible security, including hiring practices and employee screening checks.
Technology – Evaluate the technology that the vendor will deploy to process your mail. Request presentations on electronic manifests for inbound mail, Coding Address Accuracy System (CASS) certification, etc.
Discount sharing – If you are using a vendor to prepare and presort your mail, conduct on-site audits to ensure that you are being charged correctly and receiving the appropriate discounts.
Scanning/electronic imaging – Ask for vendor briefings on preparing and storing digital images. Ask your agency information technology department for assistance with this review. The briefing should cover the strategy for the long-term storage of electronic documents, retrieval from long-term storage, and how original documents will be prepared and indexed for storage.
Performance-based service: Develop a performance-based service contract that focuses on three critical elements:
A performance work statement: The performance work statement defines the Government’s requirements in terms of the objective and measurable outputs. It should provide the vendor with answers to five basic questions: what, when, where, how many, and how well. It is important to answer these questions well, to allow the vendor the opportunity to accurately assess resources required and risks involved.
A quality assurance plan: The quality assurance plan gives the Government flexibility in measuring performance and serves as a tool to assure consistent and uniform assessment of the contractor’s performance. A good quality assurance plan should include a surveillance schedule and clearly state the surveillance methods to be used in monitoring contractor performance.
Appropriate incentives: Incentives should be used when they will encourage better quality performance and may be either positive or negative or a combination of both. They do not need to be present in every performance-based contract. Positive incentives are actions to take if work exceeds the standards. Standards should be challenging, yet reasonable attainable. Negative incentives are actions to take if work does not meet the standards.
Conduct periodic reviews separate from the acquisition process. Also, tour the shop to see that the procedures are being followed. Confirm that all mail is being processed in a timely manner and that all other performance standards are being met.
More information on Performance – Based Contracting can be found at: and type ARNET, using the search tool. This will ensure you the latest information.

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