EOP Foundation Seminars - Public Sector

Public Sector | Private Sector

Custom Course #9 - Congressional Testimony for Executive Branch Officials

For every decision made by the Executive Branch and every crisis managed by government executives, there is a Congressman or Senator tasked with oversight of executive decision-making to ensure it complies with legislative intentions. There are also legislators who may not have a specific oversight role, but who would like to find out more about Executive Branch decision-making for constituent services. In all cases, it is important to accurately represent the decision making process, context and the reasoning used by executives behind it.

The Executive Branch makes tens of thousands of complex decisions daily in order to balance competing goods. Some of those decisions, such as those pertaining to budgetary matters or national security, have far-ranging impacts; others have far less visible impacts. However, irrespective of the breadth or the impact of the decision, government executives may at any time be called before Congress to inform the legislature of their policies, decisions, and the effects of legislation on the American public.

Congressional Testimony for Executive Branch Officials educates government executives in the processes of Congressional Testimony at every stage of testifying before Congress. Because the Executive Branch engages unique processes at the policy, budgetary, regulatory, and management stages of decision-making the way that the Executive functions is often opaque and hard to understand to Members of the U.S. Senate and Congress. In many cases, this is simply a matter of translating Executive Processes into rationales that non-subject matter experts can understand, in others testimony requires placing decisions and programs in the context of intended, and sometimes unintended, consequences. This course provides participants comprehensive instruction and insight into the techniques, processes, and strategies behind presenting Congressional testimony effectively. The practical curriculum identifies and presents in five modules what executive branch officials need to know about Congress before presenting before committees and then spends six modules coaching government executives how to write and present testimony and effectively answering Congressional questions after testimony. Additionally, the course also addresses the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders involved in Congressional oversight process and how to craft testimony to address the concerns of each.

Proper protocol and the U.S. Congress – The course will focus on the mechanics of presenting before Congress, techniques for dealing with Congressional staff, how to prepare and submit written testimony and the historical evolution of the practice of the Executive Branch testifying before Congress.

Testimony the Congressional Record and the Senate Record – The course will focus on how to compose effective and accurate written submissions in order to frame testimony before a committee, detail the ability to revise and extend remarks after testimony and how to walk back potentially incendiary testimony sessions.

Congress in Executive Branch Oversight – The course will focus on the practical implications of Congressional oversight and how that effects decisions on how to present testimony regarding Executive Branch decisions and programs in response to Congressional inquiry.

Presidential and Partisan Politics in Testifying before Congress – The course will focus on how political strength and weakness can determine questions from Members of Congress and Senators, how shifting institutional strength changes lines of inquiry, how to address politicized programs and how to present from positions of neutral competence despite overwhelming political pressure.

Testimony and Furthering Objectives – The course will focus on how each participant in a hearing room comes with a particular set of objectives and how the role of a good witness is to consider each of these objectives, weigh the various considerations and present data in a matter which accurately reflects the needs of Government while not unintentionally politicizing or stoking political rivalries within Congress.

Writing for Congress – The course will focus on how to prepare written testimony for Congress, including how to boil away pedantic detail for Congressional staff that are not necessarily subject matter experts, yet provide all relevant and requested facts and understanding the writing format and styles most effective for written testimony before Congress.

Answering questions from Congressmen, Senators and Congressional Staff – The course will focus on how to efficiently, effectively answer questions from Committee staff and others as tasked by legislators while at the same time balancing understanding how those answers could effect competing programmatic needs.

Course Objectives

The principal objective of Congressional Testimony for Executive Branch Officials is to educate government executives how to testify before Congress and what that means for an individual government executive in terms of policy, budget, regulations, and management. The EOP Foundation has devised the course such that upon completion, course participants will have achieved the following outcomes:

They will understand how testifying before Congress and the scrutiny that Congress provides can change oversight and administration of the agency’s policy, budget, regulations, and management;

  • Understand how to provide exceptional written testimony;

  • Achieve a high level of comfort in testifying before Congress;

  • Understand primary stakeholders on Congressional and Senate Committees;

  • Knowledge of how partisan politics and election results change the nature of Congressional testimony;

  • How to anticipate those programs and issues for which testimony will be required; and

  • How to prepare for testimony in a way which enhances agency reputation during the question periods.

Congressional Testimony and Oversight – Participants will have a comprehension of how the testimony process can create additional issues for Congressional oversight or enhance the reputation of various departments and agencies depending on the kind and level of responsiveness.

Providing Written Testimony – Executives will understand how to craft written testimony in a way that is easily accessible to lawmakers and Congressional aides who may not be subject matter experts in the department, agency or field in question.

Practical Testimony – Participants will practice testifying before Congress, receive feedback about which styles are appropriate for which committees and how to maximize impact of written testimony during the question and answer period.

Congressional Stakeholders – Executives will learn how to recognize the different Congressional stakeholders, create ‘testimony issue maps’ which are specific to committees and hearing types, develop strategies for dealing with leading questions and Congressional staff inquiries.

Congressional Politics and Testimony – Participants will understand how decision-making agendas are reviewed and revamped in different Congresses, how partisan and institutional politics between the Executive Branch, stakeholders, and Congress change the kind of questions asked, the types of testimony required and how to move forward with.

Anticipating Congressional Questions – Executives will learn strategies for anticipating which programs and issues will require repeated Congressional testimony depending on the political, news, and regulatory cycle outside of those hearings normally held.

Testimony Preparation – Participants will understand how to put together programs to prepare themselves and their superiors for testimony by teaching how to create a rigorous simulation that allows presenters to hone speaking skills and anticipate questions and objections.