Congressional Oversight Staff Resources

Since 2006, POGO’s Congressional Oversight Initiative has worked to help Congress perform one of its most important constitutional responsibilities: overseeing the executive and judicial branches.

Congressional Oversight Trainings

Our Congressional Training Program is composed mainly of monthly training seminars and biannual Oversight Boot Camps. These free trainings aim to provide congressional staff with the skills necessary to conduct effective oversight investigations, directly contributing to a more accountable government. Since 2006, we have trained thousands of congressional staff — Democrats and Republicans from both the House and Senate, and from nearly every committee office as well as many personal offices — on the best practices of oversight and investigations.  

Designed for veterans and beginners alike, our monthly seminars feature lessons from some of the most accomplished current and former congressional oversight experts and practitioners from both parties, and often from both the House and Senate. They provide opportunities for congressional staff to ask questions in an off-the-record environment. Although seminars are generally targeted toward committee staff, much of the information shared during these seminars is also helpful to staff in personal offices in their investigations. These nonpartisan training sessions are open to Hill staff regardless of party, chamber, or position. We also welcome staffers from the Government Accountability Office and Congressional Research Service. POGO’s congressional oversight trainings are not open to the public.  

To stay up to date on POGO’s trainings, subscribe to The Paper Trail, a twice weekly newsletter offering a curated collection of the top government news stories and the latest on POGO events. 

2023-2024 Training Schedule

Our Congressional Training Program for the 118th Congress covers all the essential aspects of congressional oversight and investigations. Learn more.

Congressional Oversight Boot Camp  

At least twice per year, POGO, in conjunction with the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy and The Lugar Center, offers two-day, intensive training sessions for congressional staff on the art and practice of oversight and investigations.  

Each of these Oversight Boot Camps brings together Democratic and Republican staff from the U.S. House and Senate committees and personal offices to produce a bipartisan, bicameral experience. To date, more than 300 congressional staff have completed this training on how to carry out fact-based, bipartisan, in-depth investigations.

For updates on upcoming boot camps, sign up for The Paper Trail. 

Customized Staff Briefings

In addition to regular training seminars open to all congressional staff, POGO offers customized trainings tailored to the needs of an individual office.  

Customized trainings cover everything from a basic oversight briefing for new staff, to a primer on the functions and history of an agency, to a brush up on interview techniques. Drawing on the expertise of a broad network of accomplished investigative and oversight veterans, the Congressional Oversight Initiative can help brief staff on the information they need to conduct the oversight that members of Congress, and the American people, deserve. POGO is also able to host virtual briefings when circumstances require it.  

For more information, contact Aisha Shafi at [email protected].  

Federal Staff Trainings  

POGO also offers oversight trainings, on request, to small groups within the executive branch of the federal government. These trainings mainly cover the topics of whistleblower rights and legal protections, as well as best practices for safely disclosing instances of waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government. To inquire, please email Aisha Shafi at [email protected].  

The Latest from the Congressional Oversight Initiative

Read our most recent work on congressional oversight.

  • Congressional Oversight Investigations Primer

    Following these four best practices can help produce a better, fairer, and more thorough oversight investigation.

  • Recap of Our 16th Oversight Boot Camp

    Oversight Boot Camps foster bipartisan, in-depth investigations and help create better trust and working relationships between staffers from both sides of the aisle and both chambers.

  • Study Shows POGO’s Oversight Trainings Increase Congressional Capacity

    Since 2006, POGO has been training congressional staff on how to conduct effective oversight. New data shows it’s working.

Congressional Oversight 101

Watch a brief overview of the important role congressional oversight plays in our system of government. 

Key Resources

Read our top resources for congressional oversight staff.

  • The Art of Congressional Oversight

    We’ve developed a congressional oversight handbook to help improve the quality of oversight activities on Capitol Hill.

  • Congressional Oversight Workbook

    Supplemental to The Art of Congressional Oversight handbook, this workbook provides templates and tips that guide investigators through the steps of an oversight investigation.

Additional Congressional Oversight Resources

Oversight in 16 Steps, a one-page, high-level overview of the steps that are part of an oversight investigation. 

Checklist of Places to Turn to During an Investigation. Getting answers can be hard. This checklist offers different avenues you can take to get the information you need. 

Theory and Practice: Why Oversight is Important, with Best Practices and Tips, a brief primer on how to conduct congressional oversight. 

Questions and Answers on Conducting Oversight, an oversight basics FAQ developed by Ruth Fleischer, a 20-year veteran of Capitol Hill and now a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law. 

Congressional Oversight: What It Means and How to Make It Work, a one-page backgrounder on the types of, and legal basis for, congressional oversight. Developed by Elise Bean, former staff director for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. 

Understanding Your Rights in Response to a Congressional Subpoena, a private sector white paper on the authority, scope, and limitations of a congressional investigation of a private entity. 

CRS Congressional Oversight Manual. A fundamental objective of the Congressional Oversight Manual is to assist members of Congress, committees, and legislative staff in carrying out this vital legislative function. 

GAO Overview, a PowerPoint that gives an overview of the Government Accountability Office’s authority, organization, and work, and explains how the office works with Congress. 

Three GAO Handouts, consisting of an introduction to the GAO, guidelines on request processing and timing, and a breakdown of staff areas of expertise. 

Additional Links 

Do’s and Don’ts of an Oversight Hearing, some helpful ways of thinking about investigations. 

Framing Questions for a Hearing, some tips on how to make the most of your questions. 

Suggested Confirmation Questions, a list of ethics and conflict-of-interest questions that could be asked of nominees. 

Office of Government Ethics Resources, a list of confirmation and presidential transition resources provided by the Office of Government Ethics. 

Finding Partners, a brainstorming guide for building coalitions. 

Getting Answers, a tip sheet including unorthodox opportunities to get your questions answered or to gain access to documents. 

Additional Links 

Working with Insiders and Whistleblowers, a tip sheet with some general rules of thumb about how congressional investigations can work with whistleblowers. 

Whistleblower Protections Informational Handout, a primer on whistleblower protections and the patchwork of agencies that are involved.  

“Hands off the Whistleblower” letter, an example of a letter from a senator directing an agency head (in this case, the acting head) not to stifle whistleblowers or attempts by Congress to investigate wrongdoing. 

House Office of the Whistleblower Ombuds, an overview of the House Whistleblower Ombuds office and its services. 

Intake Case Management Workflow Infographic, a guide on how to manage whistleblowers when they contact a congressional office.  

Whistleblower Survival Tips, lessons and advice for whistleblowers to succeed. This is a resource that congressional offices can share with whistleblowers. 

Additional Links 

10 Media Tips from Roberta Baskin, a tip sheet of things staffers should consider to maximize the media impact of an investigation. 

Handling Agency Objections, an extensive tipsheet created by the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy describing Congress’s rights in response to common agency objections. 

Federal Contracting Investigative Tips, a list of questions to get answered for each stage of a contract. 

Index of Useful Databases, a wide-ranging index of links to helpful databases, search engines, and other resources that may prove useful while conducting oversight.

Tip Sheet on Congressional Access to Restricted Information, a tip sheet focused specifically on overcoming obstacles to accessing classified and other restricted information, including a list of resources with additional information. 

Legal Framework for Congressional Rights to Classified, Sensitive, or Privileged Information, a description of the applicable laws and the best practices for seeking and handling sensitive information, including classified and controlled unclassified information; executive privileges; tax, health, and privacy act information; and trade secrets. 

Summary of Intelligence Community Whistleblowing, a short excerpt from the book Caught Between Conscience and Career by POGO, GAP, and PEER. 

Additional Links 

Piercing the Corporate Veil: Investigating Public and Private Companies, a tipsheet focused on getting information and records during private-sector investigations. 

Improper Payments: Federal Improper Payments Are Significant, Costing Taxpayers Billions. The federal government makes payments in the wrong amount, to the wrong people, and for the wrong reason every year, a complex problem that adversely affects taxpayers.