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Advocacy Teams form a powerful network of advocates across the country. This year, we’re working to rein in Pentagon spending.

Michigan Advocacy Team
Michigan Advocacy Team lobbies Senator Stabenow’s office.

Congress has the power to stop unchecked increases in Pentagon spending. Both Democrats and Republicans have questioned the president’s proposal to grow military spending, but members of Congress are often hesitant to vote against Pentagon funding. Active, engaged constituents are the best antidote to that reluctance.

That’s where the FCNL network comes in, especially the FCNL Advocacy Teams. These groups of Quakers and friends, now in more than 50 communities across the country, have been working since 2015 to build meaningful relationships with their members of Congress. This year, as Congress weighs big decisions on federal budget priorities, Advocacy Teams are engaging their members to support a budget that advances peace and justice.

Already, 2017 has been record-breaking for Advocacy Teams, with more than 111 lobby visits and 49 published letters to the editor so far. A few examples show the creative and effective ways that teams are asking their members of Congress to oppose more money for the Pentagon.

Advocacy Team members get to know their members of Congress and what is most persuasive to them. For one Michigan Republican representative, the team focused on a shared faith connection to make their point. The representative agreed enthusiastically when a team member pointed out that Jesus calls us to feed the poor, protect orphans and widows, heal the sick, and be peacemakers. He was less comfortable, however, when the team member asked how those beliefs were reflected in his voting record. Despite this challenge, the visit ended with a hug— and much for the representative to think about.

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Advocacy Teams also use the power of the network to support each other. In a visit with their senator, New Haven, Connecticut team members learned about a congressional sign-on letter urging a Pentagon audit. The team realized that this kind of letter could put members on record to oppose new spending until the Pentagon undergoes an audit required by law. They shared the letter with teams in other states. The result: members of Congress from Arizona to Georgia are hearing that their constituents want them to speak out publicly on the sorry state of the Pentagon’s budget—and representatives are acting. In a visit with the Los Angeles, California Advocacy Team, the top aide to one representative said his boss would be open to drafting a similar letter for the House, a significant increase in leadership for this member of Congress.

While many Advocacy Teams have been working for months to build relationships with their congressional delegation, others are taking the first steps. Geoff Hilsabeck of the Morgantown, West Virginia team spoke about his first lobby visit on a national call with other team members in April. Despite his fears of encountering hostility, indifference, or challenge, the visit was an important first step in their lobbying journey. Geoff and his team reflected on what it means to see that of God in everyone — including Congress.

This relationship-building enables our Advocacy Teams to be successful agents of change.

This relationship-building enables our Advocacy Teams to be successful agents of change. One lobby visit isn’t enough — it takes time and patience for the seeds planted in a conversation to grow. Through their ongoing work, Advocacy Teams are helping members of Congress take the next step to question unthinking investment in the Pentagon and in military responses to violence.