The U.S. government annually sponsors thousands of conferences, symposiums, seminars, and other policy-related forums that involve individuals and organizations from outside the U.S. government. These forums present opportunities for U.S. and foreign audiences to discuss public policy issues and are designed to advance U.S. government interests. For example, some forums are intended to educate participants about official U.S. government positions and policies on issues of public concern, such as the war in Iraq, development of alternative energy sources, human trafficking, and protection of endangered species. Other forums serve as venues for soliciting input on policy issues from the public and from selected external experts, including academics, scientists, journalists, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations. Congress requested information on these forums, noting that official U.S. representation at the forums is important for ensuring that they achieve their objectives. This letter provides information on forums sponsored by the Departments of State, Defense, Energy, and Interior from 2001 through 2004. For the policy-related forums sponsored by these four departments, we (1) determined the extent to which U.S. government officials participated in the forums, and (2) identified the departmental policies and procedures governing participation by U.S. officials at these events.
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