Science Support

500.9, USGS Congressional and Legislative Affairs





Issuance Number:      500.9

Subject:                       USGS Congressional and Legislative Affairs          

Issuance Date:            09/20/2021

Expiration Date:          09/21/2026

Responsible Office:    Office of Communications and Publishing

Instruction:                  This is a new Survey Manual (SM) chapter and does not supersede existing guidance on this topic.

Approving Official:      /s/ Roseann Gonzales-Schreiner

                                      Deputy Director for Administration and Policy, USGS                              


1.    Purpose.  This SM chapter provides guidance for U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) employees regarding interactions with legislative officials at any level of Government.  This includes interaction with committees and subcommittees, Members of Congress, and their staffs (referred to collectively as Congress or the State Legislature).  This covers activities in Washington, D.C. and State capitols and in the field.  This includes correspondence, hearings, briefings, meetings, site visits, and other types of interaction.  

2.    Scope.  This SM chapter applies to all USGS employees, but it primarily addresses staff in the Office of the Director, the Office of Communications and Publishing (OCAP), and the Office of Budget, Planning, and Integration (OBPI).

3.    Background.  The guidelines and procedures in this SM chapter conform with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circulars A-11 and A-19 and Department of the Interior (DOI) Manual Part 110, Chapter 6.  These OMB and DOI policies set procedures and requirements for appropriate interaction between Congress and Executive Branch agencies, including individual employees.  This SM chapter clarifies these policies as they relate to USGS communication of Bureau legislative positions and information; publications, data, and other science information to Congress and State Legislatures; as well as the expertise of USGS employees.

4.    Authorities and References.  

A.  OMB Circular A-11, preparing, submitting, and executing the Budget

B.  OMB Circular A-19, legislative coordination and clearance

C.  Departmental Manual, (DM) 110 DM 6, Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs

D.  18 United States Code, Section 1913, commonly known as the anti-lobbying statute

5.    Policy.  

A.  To fulfill the USGS mission and maintain the integrity and impartiality of our science, the USGS must ensure that interactions with legislative offices are respectful, relevant, timely, and appropriate.

B.  There are a wide variety of legislative offices with various and often divergent motivations and needs for accessing USGS science information.  The Office of the Director is responsible for managing these relationships.  To manage them effectively requires careful coordination of messages and timing, and effective relationship management is crucial to the success of the USGS mission.  Therefore, the Office of the Director retains the discretion to prioritize engagement with legislative offices and the information provided to them.  OCAP and OBPI have the lead in managing relationships with legislative offices, and they will advise the Director, the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) (which includes Associate Directors [ADs], and Regional Directors [RDs]), Program Coordinators, and Center Directors on matters related to USGS legislative interactions as needed.

C.  USGS employees must have DOI approval prior to testifying or providing statements to Congress or a State Legislature.

(1)  Any invitation a USGS employee receives to participate in a hearing must be disclosed to their supervisor, who will report the invitation as appropriate to the Office of the Director.  It is the prerogative of DOI to send the person or persons of their choosing to participate in a hearing on their behalf and on behalf of each Bureau, including the USGS.

(2)  Testimony and statements are usually drafted by subject-matter experts and coordinated by OCAP and OBPI with the subject-matter experts’ respective supervisors.  OCAP and OBPI coordinate review and approval of all testimony, statements, and supporting material in accordance with OMB and DOI requirements.  Testimony and statements are not subject to USGS Fundamental Science Practices or peer review.  DOI approves final drafts of all testimony and statements, and OCAP and OBPI strive to ensure that USGS science information used in testimony and statements is accurate and relevant. 

(3)  Testimony and statements are transmitted to the committee by OCAP and OBPI and are published at the discretion of the committee. 

(4)  Draft testimony and statements, or those that are finalized but have not yet been published by the committee, must not be shared outside the USGS.  If consultation with non-USGS colleagues is necessary, discuss this with OCAP and OBPI before such consultation occurs.

(5)  For the purposes of this policy, questions for the record (QFRs) are handled the same as testimony and statements.  QFRs should not be shared outside the USGS before they are published by the committee.  Consult OCAP and OBPI for further guidance.

(6)  OCAP and OBPI may request that a USGS subject-matter expert review testimony and statements drafted by other agencies. 

D.  Congress, as the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government, may request information from the Executive Branch, including the USGS.  The USGS strives to share such information with Congress in a way that will meet the needs of each congressional office and adhere to the policies of DOI and OMB.  Preliminary findings, opinions, or speculation should be avoided.  Consult OCAP and OBPI for further guidance.

(1)  OCAP and OBPI advise the Director, the ELT, Program Coordinators, and Center Directors.  Any response to a request from Congress must be coordinated with OCAP and OBPI.

(2)  Information provided to Congress must be reviewed by the Office of the Director, coordinated by OCAP and OBPI, unless OCAP and OBPI determine otherwise.  In some cases, DOI and OMB may request review of certain information. 

(3)  Only OCAP and OBPI may transmit information to Congress, regardless of its format (i.e., in writing, electronically, or verbally).

(4)  These policies also apply to requests made by State Legislatures.  Consult OCAP and OBPI for further guidance.

E.  Interactions with legislative offices must not violate, or appear to violate, the anti-lobbying statute.  Interactions with legislative offices also must not violate the policies of DOI or OMB.

(1)  OCAP and OBPI advise the Director, the ELT, Program Coordinators, and Center Directors.  OCAP and OBPI coordinate interactions with legislative offices.

(2)  OCAP and OBPI welcome recommendations to advise legislative offices of relevant USGS science information (that is, without having been requested by a legislative office), but such engagements must be approved by and undertaken only at the direction of the Office of the Director.

(3)  USGS partners, including stakeholders, contractors, and professional societies, may solicit assistance from USGS employees regarding interactions with legislative offices.  Any such request must be disclosed to the employee’s supervisor, who will report the request as appropriate to the Office of the Director.  No joint interactions with legislative offices may occur without express approval by the Office of the Director.  Partners may share their own information and views on pending legislation or appropriations with USGS employees.  These should be disclosed to the employee’s supervisor as well.  Any statement about USGS positions on pending legislation or appropriations, whether made to the public or to a partner, must only be provided by the Director consistent with the processes discussed in this policy.  Consult OCAP and OBPI for further guidance.

F.  Most USGS science information is publicly available, although legislative offices may need assistance finding it or interpreting it. 

(1)  OCAP and OBPI have the lead in providing such guidance to legislative offices, in coordination with ADs and RDs, to ensure that details specific to each office are highlighted and follow-up questions are addressed.  Further, OCAP and OBPI ensure that such interactions do not violate, or appear to violate, any statute, regulation, or policy.

(2)  Information that is publicly available, such as on the USGS website or in a publication, may not need review, but should nevertheless be shared only by OCAP and OBPI or with their concurrence (See Policy subsection B above).

6.  Definitions.

A.  USGS employee.  A USGS employee is any person serving an appointment as a civil servant, senior executive, emeritus, contractor, or volunteer, whether serving in a part-time, temporary, or permanent appointment, while acting in their official capacity.  USGS employees must follow the anti-lobbying statute and DOI and OMB policies.  Notwithstanding those limitations, employment with the USGS does not reduce a person’s civil rights.

B.  Legislative Office.  Each Member of Congress or a State Legislature employs staff who gather information and prepare statements on their behalf.  For the purposes of this policy, Members and their staff are treated the same and are regarded as a legislative office.  Each legislative committee also has its own staff, which serve similar functions.  In addition to Members and committees, Legislative Branch agencies such as the Library of Congress (including the Congressional Research Service), the Congressional Budget Office, and Government Accountability Office are also legislative offices for the purposes of this policy.

C.  Congressional hearing.  Congressional hearings include any official meeting noticed by a committee of the House or the Senate.  They are usually one of four types: legislative, oversight, investigation, or confirmation.  Hearings may consider statements by the USGS, DOI, or other agencies on proposed legislation.  They may solicit testimony by USGS employees.  Nominees for the position of Director are normally expected to testify at a confirmation hearing prior to the Senate acting on their nomination (See Definition H below for additional clarification regarding state legislative hearings).

D.  Testimony and statements.  Upon receipt of an invitation to a committee hearing, these written statements are provided to the committee.  Under this policy, they are handled the same as a witness statement.  Any legislative testimony or statement provided by any employee of an Executive Branch agency, including the USGS, must comply with the requirements and procedures for coordination and clearance contained in OMB Circular A-19.  Depending on the type of hearing and direction from DOI, the USGS may provide one statement or multiple statements.  When a witness testifies in person, they also deliver an oral version of their written statement.  OCAP and OBPI provide guidance on oral statements in accordance with the host committee’s rules. All statements must be filed and preserved in accordance with USGS records schedules (See SM 431.1, Records Management Roles and Responsibilities, and SM 431.6, Records Disposition).  When a witness is not involved, such a statement is usually referred to as a “statement for the record.”  Under this policy, it is handled the same as a witness statement.

E.  Questions for the Record.  After hearings, committees usually leave the record open for a period of time to allow Members to submit QFRs in writing – questions which they did not ask during the hearing or to ask for clarifications of or additional inquiries on exchanges during the hearing.  These QFRs are reviewed using the same procedures for testimony and statements and, for the purposes of this policy, they are treated the same.

F.  Legislative meetings or briefings.  These meetings or briefings include any interaction with a legislative office that is not a hearing.  The terms are interchangeable for the purposes of this policy.  Meetings or briefings do not involve testimony but may involve information to be shared with a legislative office which requires review and approval.  OCAP and OBPI must attend all legislative meetings or briefings.

G.  Information provided to Congress or a State Legislature.  This is any information that will be or may be provided to a legislative office.  Requests from legislative offices may include research information, scientific findings, and subject-matter expertise.  In most cases, information provided to Congress or a State Legislature should be published science.  For the purposes of this policy, information provided to congressional district offices and staff is treated identically to information provided to offices and staff in Washington, D.C.

H.  Procedures regarding state legislative hearings.  USGS employees are occasionally invited to testify before state legislatures.  Per the DOI Solicitor, employees cannot do so without express permission from the Solicitor.  OCAP will coordinate with the Solicitor and DOI when USGS employees are invited to testify. 

I.  Field or site visits.  Legislative offices may visit USGS offices or field sites.  For the purposes of this policy, they are treated the same as meetings or briefings on Capitol Hill or at a state capitol.

J.  Courtesy visits.  USGS employees, in their official capacity, may be encouraged to visit certain congressional offices when they are in Washington, D.C.  These visits are organized at the discretion of OCAP and OBPI.  For the purposes of this policy, they are treated identically to legislative meetings or briefings.  Also, USGS employees may visit staff at their local offices or state legislative staff and, for the purposes of this policy, such meetings are treated identically to meetings in Washington, D.C.

K.  Office of Communications and Publishing and Office of Budget, Planning, and Integration.  Several parts of OCAP and OBPI are responsible for managing and facilitating legislative affairs at the USGS.  These parts include primarily, in OCAP, the Congressional Affairs Team and the Regional Communications Chiefs, and in OBPI, the Budget Officer.

7.  Responsibilities.

A.  The Director is solely responsible for USGS interactions with legislative offices.  All interactions with legislative offices are done on behalf of the Director.

B.  OCAP, through the Respective Associate Director for the subject matter, the Congressional Affairs Team, and the Regional Communications Chiefs, is responsible for addressing interactions with and provides strategic guidance regarding legislative offices.

C.  OBPI, through the Associate Directors and the Budget Officer, is responsible for addressing interactions with Appropriations Members and staff and provides strategic guidance regarding appropriations matters.

D.  USGS employees are responsible for seeking permission from OCAP and OBPI to engage, or to plan to engage, legislative offices.  USGS employees must disclose all interactions with legislative offices to their supervisors and coordinate with OCAP and OBPI. 

E.  The ELT is responsible for coordinating with OCAP and OBPI, ensuring that they have current and relevant information to advise the Director and to plan engagement with legislative offices.  The ELT, including ADs and Program Coordinators, and RDs and Center Directors, ensure that OCAP and OBPI have access to authoritative and candid subject-matter expertise.

F.  Bureau Approving Officials are responsible for advising OCAP and OBPI of any USGS public statement that relates to pending legislation or appropriations.  Such statements must be reviewed by OCAP and OBPI and conform with the requirements of this policy.  Bureau Approving Officials are encouraged to advise OCAP and OBPI of such statements in publications during the Bureau review process.