Congressional Policy Staffers Go Beyond “Zero-Sum” Legislating

This September, the Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) and Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation (PON) completed a first-of-its-kind intensive five-week negotiation program for foreign policy and national security staff on Capitol Hill. This initiative is designed to equip congressional staff with a foundation of knowledge on negotiation and consensus-building strategies that will help participants develop bipartisan solutions to seemingly intractable issues.

The pilot program graduated a bipartisan, bicameral group of 39 influential Capitol Hill staff members responsible for foreign policy and national security issues. Taught by distinguished faculty from Harvard’s PON and organized around PSA’s mission to advance bipartisan solutions to America’s critical national security and foreign policy challenges, the course trains participants in systematic approaches for analyzing and carrying out both bilateral and multiparty negotiations. The program focuses explicitly on collaborative concepts that counter the idea and practice of negotiations as a zero-sum game.

Graduates met a strict attendance and participation requirement, signifying a deep appreciation for the program and lessons. Instruction focused on “at-the-table” techniques, negotiation campaign strategies, and analysis of historically significant negotiations achieved in international relations and corporate contexts.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a strong interest and appetite from Capitol Hill staff for skills training and bipartisan opportunities such as this effort. Partnership for a Secure America will continue investing in this and other efforts to encourage good governance in foreign policy and national security and overcome partisan gridlock in Congress.