The Postal Service's decision Thursday to bring in a new consulting firm formed by Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot represents a promising effort to breathe new vigor into the ailing mail system.

Just how promising may be indicated by Perot's impressive track record in taking a $1,000 loan and turning it into a pioneering computer services firm that became the foundation of a vast financial empire that includes major holdings in real estate, oil, and gas properties.In any event, the need for a strong new effort to streamline postal operations should be clear.

It should be clear from the $635 million worth of red ink the Postal Service incurred from December to March, necessitating higher charges for mail delivery.

It should be clear from the fact that mail costs have risen 67 percent since 1980, double the rate of inflation.

It should be clear, too, from the growing inroads that private firms are making into some Postal Service operations, and from the increasing calls for an end to the service's monopoly on delivering first class mail to permit even more private competition.

Meanwhile, as welcome as the new contract with Perot is, it leaves at least one sobering thought: If someone with Ross Perot's outstanding record of accomplishment can't help turn the U.S. Postal Service around, maybe no one can.