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Legislation To Allow Congressional Nominations To The U.S. Coast Guard

Rep. Bennie Thompson

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Mr. Speaker, I am proud to introduce legislation today with the following Members: Mr. Elijah Cummings, Mr. John Duncan, and Mr. Pedro Pierluisi.

Currently, Members of Congress are allowed to nominate a limited number of candidates to the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. However, the smallest of the five federal service academies--the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, USCGA--does not accept congressional nominations.

Instead, the USCGA admits candidates through a process that closely resembles the admissions processes of civilian colleges and universities. Without a congressional nominations process, the applicant pool of candidates to the USCGA is predictably less geographically diverse than at the other military service academies. The inevitable result of a less geographically diverse applicant pool is a less geographically diverse class. The statistics bear this out; in fact, there was not a single appointment from Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands in the USCGA Class of 2015.

Under my legislation, starting in academic year 2013, each Member of Congress would be allowed to nominate up to three qualified candidates to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. In turn, the Coast Guard would be required to fill a quarter of slots for the incoming class from the expanded pool of qualified, geographically-diverse applicants received through the congressional nominations process. Then, in each subsequent academic year, half of the slots in each incoming class would have to be filled through the congressional nominations process.

My legislation will not require the Coast Guard to lower its student selection criteria or increase the size of the student population. To the contrary, it anticipates that the Coast Guard will utilize its criteria to select the best candidates from the pool of Member-nominated candidates for half of the slots in the incoming class, just as it will do to fill the slots in the other half of the incoming class. My legislation simply seeks to make Congress a partner in helping to put talented young people--from every corner of the country--on the path to a rewarding career in the U.S. Coast Guard.

I urge support of this commonsense, bipartisan legislation.