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Policy Matters: Educating Congress on Peace and Security

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How do those who care about American foreign policy and responsible US leadership in the world educate their elected representatives in Congress? Despite radical changes in the international environment and the emergence of vastly different threats since the end of the Cold War – and especially since September 11th – Congress often seems unable to escape old-fashioned notions of security and to formulate pragmatic, long-term solutions to new challenges. What can informed citizens, community leaders, experts, and nongovernmental organizations do to help shape the ongoing debates about today’s most critical international security issues?

For many – including those with years of experience inside the Beltway – Capitol Hill, with its complex committee structures and opaque institutional practices, remains daunting and unfamiliar terrain. But the uninitiated need not despair. With this nuts-and-bolts guide to the inner workings of Congress (including institutional structures and procedures, who does what in a congressional office, and the logistics of garnering interest), engaged citizens are armed with the insights and strategies they need to help put long-term, balanced solutions to the nation’s most pressing foreign policy and international security challenges on the radar screens of their elected leaders in Congress.

Drawing on their expertise in the security field and over a dozen years of combined experience on Capitol Hill as aides in Democratic and Republican offices alike, Lorelei Kelly and Elizabeth Turpen offer a unique insider perspective on navigating peace and security issues in Congress. Whether you are an academic who would like to educate a representative, a member of a nongovernmental organization with an important idea to share, or simply a concerned member of the public, Policy Matters will help you better understand the “ins” and “outs” of Congress and assist you in getting your voice heard.

“Security in a post-9/11 world requires a balanced toolkit, but we spend far more on our hard than on our soft power. Polls show that citizens support more balance, but in Congress, squeaky wheels get the grease. This handbook tells you what buttons to push to increase responsiveness. It is a real contribution to understanding our democratic processes.”

Joseph S. Nye, Jr.
Author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics

Contents: Available by PDF download.

  • Chapter One: A Little Bit of Background
    Why doesn’t policy made by Congress reflect the support among the American public for an active US role in the world? Chapter One covers background material on the difference between “hard” and “soft” power, Congress’ need for knowledge, and the distinction between foreign policy, national security, and defense.
  • Chapter Two: Today’s Congress in Context
    This chapter offers an assessment of the missing ingredients on Capitol Hill required for consistent positive action on major global challenges. How can you help policymakers understand the value of a foreign policy toolkit that is well-stocked and balanced?
  • Chapter Three: From the Inside Looking Out
    Chapter Three covers the issues of majority party, leadership, power, and the many hats a Member of Congress wears. It includes two case studies to assist you in viewing Congress from the inside looking out and to coach you in thinking like a Member (or his staffer) in order to devise creative options on how to help the Member help you.
  • Chapter Four: Turning Information into Knowledge
    In this chapter, we will address the tactical basics for packaging your message and approaching the Hill. We will outline a general description of the foreign and security policy landscape in Congress, and provide insights in order give you a better understanding of how Congress works so that you will be able to devise an effective strategy for outreach to representatives and senators.
  • Chapter Five: Nuts and Bolts
    Chapter Five will help to provide additional information and resources for your organizing and outreach quest, including the basics about the legislative process, particularly the budget process. Understanding the procedures, expectations, and methods common to Members of Congress, both in Washington and at home, will help you to better formulate your approach to engaging a Member or his staff and increasing your outreach potential.
  • Chapter Six: Putting Together the Pieces: The Story of Security for a New Century
    Chapter Six tells the story of the Security for a New Century congressional study groups, providing a case study of how carefully organized research and networking, along with the formation of strategic partnerships, can result in a successful program for dialogue on peace and security issues within the US Congress.
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