Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, I am proud to re-introduce the "Coast Guard Academy Opportunity Act,'' legislation to create new opportunities for careers in the U.S. Coast Guard with a geographically and politically diverse group of colleagues. They are: Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, Representative John Duncan of Tennessee, Delegate Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, Representative Corrine Brown of Florida, Representative Yvette Clarke of New York, Delegate Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico, Representative Michael Michaud of Maine, Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota, Representative Janice Hahn of California, Delegate Gregorio Sablan of the Northern Mariana Islands, Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia, and Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota.
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 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, the incoming Class of 2016 does not have a single cadet from: Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, or Guam.
Under the "Coast Guard Academy Opportunity Act,'' starting in academic year 2014, each Member of Congress could 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 this pool of congressional nominations comprised of qualified, geographically diverse applicants. Then, in each subsequent academic year, half of the slots in each incoming class would have to be filled through the congressional nominations process.
This legislation would 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 continue to use 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. The "Coast Guard Academy Opportunity Act'' 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.