WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, with Congressman Anthony Brown (All D-Md.) have introduced new bicameral legislation to secure the U.S. Service Academy nominations of states and congressional districts that lack representation in Congress due to the death, resignation, or removal from office of a sitting member of Congress. After the passing of Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings in 2019, the delegation was dismayed to learn that the Congressional District’s allotted service academy openings were revoked, leaving the students in that district with fewer opportunities to seek appointment to one of our federal service academies. The lawmakers’ new legislation, the SERVE Act, would fix this issue and ensure that future students are not denied this opportunity. They were joined in introducing the legislation by Congressmen Kweisi Mfume, Jamie Raskin, Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, and David Trone (all D-Md.).
“In order for students to even be considered for admission to a U.S. Service Academy, they must receive a nomination from either their senator or congressional representative,” said Senator Cardin. “Student applicants are competing against the best and brightest in their state for one of only 10 nominations available to each Member of Congress. Removing one potential source of a nomination, due to circumstances out of their control, is patently unfair to students – and it dramatically and unnecessarily reduces the talented pool of candidates from which the academies can select their next generation of military officers.”
“Attending one of our federal service academies is an honor and a privilege, and for many students across our state, it is a life-long dream. Securing one of these nominations is highly competitive, and every Maryland student deserves an equal chance to access this opportunity. This legislation will help ensure that a Congressional vacancy does not stand in the way of our students achieving their dreams and serving their country,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“Nominating young women and men to our exemplary military service academies is an important responsibility for members of Congress and one I take very seriously after 30-years of service. Military service is a rewarding career path for young people looking to cultivate leadership, technical and other key skills that will serve them well both in and out of uniform,” said Congressman Brown. “We need to make sure no qualified candidates looking to serve our country go overlooked by creating a process to ensure a consistent number of nominations for state delegations, in the event of a Congressional vacancy. We all share the same mission to educate talented young people interested in service to our country. This legislation would help keep that mission on track.”
“The opportunity for young people to get a great education and serve their country is priceless. The military academy recommendations made by members of Congress are reserved for the best and brightest from our communities. This legislation rightfully modernizes the process for young women and men who want to learn and to serve,” said Congressman Mfume.
“A congressional vacancy should not stand in the way of young men and women beginning their careers in service to our country by attending one of our great military academies,” said Representative Raskin. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Cardin, Senator Van Hollen and Congressman Mfume so that all students have their applications viewed in a timely manner, no matter the status of their congressional representation.”
“This bill makes a simple fix that could make a world of a difference for a student who dreams of attending one of our prestigious military academies,” said Congressman Ruppersberger. “It also ensures our academies do not potentially miss out on an excellent candidate because of an archaic rule, as happened after the passing of our dear colleague, Congressman Elijah Cummings.”
“For young Americans with hopes of serving in our nation’s military, a military service academy nomination is an honor and a crucial first step in their education. I am pleased to support this legislation, which will ensure this opportunity is equally available to the most qualified, exceptional candidates regardless of a congressional vacancy. This legislation will help more Americans attend our military service academies and pursue careers in service to our country,” said Congressman Sarbanes.
“Many of our country’s greatest minds graduated from service academies, including the Naval Academy – right in Annapolis, Maryland. This bill would rectify a faulty technicality and ensure every American has equal access to these incredible institutions. It’s simple: increasing opportunities for our future servicemembers is something we can all get behind,” said Congressman Trone.
Currently, in the case of the death, resignation, or removal from office of a Senator or Representative, the former Senator or Representative’s service academy nominations are revoked, reducing the number of available nominations for applicants from that state or district, and placing applicants at a disadvantage relative to their peers in other states or districts. Under the Service Education Reallocation for Vacant Elected offices (SERVE) Act, in the event that a Senate or House seat is vacant, and the swearing-in for the new Senator or Representative will take place after the deadline to submit nominations to the service academies, the former Senator or Representative’s nominations would be reallocated to the Senators (or remaining Senator) from the same state. In the case of a former Representative, the Senators from the same state would receive the nomination slots, but be required to give those nominations to applicants from the former Representative’s district.
The text of the legislation is available here.