Understanding Advanced Statements for Congressional Witnesses

Preparing to testify before Congress can require a significant amount of preparation on the part of the witness. When you are invited to testify before Congress, it is important to understand the advance preparations that must be made and the rules and requirements related to those preparations.

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Committee rules and guidelines often require witnesses to submit a certain number of advance copies of the witness’s written statement along with their biographical information. In some cases other written materials regarding the witness’s organization or the topic of the hearing may also be requested in advance. Generally, this information must be submitted by a certain deadline, ranging from one to three days before the hearing. The actual deadline can vary based on the committee as well as the nature of the hearing. Guidelines are often established by committees regarding the number of copies that must be submitted and in some instances an executive summary may also be requested.

Such requests will usually be outlined by the committee in Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgethe letter of invitation issued to the witness. Written witness materials will then be included in the briefing folders or books that are prepared by committee staff specifically for the use of committee members before and during the actual hearing. Materials are often excerpted or summarized. Copies of witness materials are usually made available on the committee’s web site and provided to the media, congressional staff and the public during the hearing.

Prospective witnesses should consult with committee staff well in advance of the commencement of the hearing to be certain they are in compliance wit all committee rules, practices, policies and requirements. This is particularly important regarding the “Truth-In-Testimony” rules that apply, requiring specific information from witnesses. This can include not only advanced copies of testimony and biographical information, but also financial information regarding government contracts and grants as well.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 2.7 Advanced Copies of Witness Statement

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