New London - In a move that caught the U.S. Coast Guard by surprise, the House has passed a bill that would require congressional nomination for admission to the Coast Guard Academy. Unlike the nation's other military service academies, which admit students by nomination, the Coast Guard Academy has traditionally admitted students on the basis of academic merit, like civilian colleges and universities. A provision in the Coast Guard Authorization Act, a bill that authorizes appropriations for the service for fiscal year 2008 as well as policy changes, requires applicants to the academy to obtain a nomination from an official source, such as a member of Congress or an authority from a U.S. territory. U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, proposed bringing the application process in line with the other academies as a way to diversify the cadet corps. In his floor statement, Cummings said the change,“in conjunction with expanded minority recruiting efforts, will draw students from all of our nation's communities to the academy- beginning the process that the commandant himself has said is needed to expand minorities at all ranks of the more than 6,000-member officer corps from the current number of 827.” But the provision took both the Coast Guard and the White House by surprise. ”It wasn't something we expected to see included in the bill, so we're taking the time to review it and see what the merits might be,” said Cmdr. Brendan C. McPherson, press secretary for Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad W. Allen. ”We want a diverse cadet corps,” McPherson added.“We're in lockstep with the Congress on that, and at this point we're looking at this provision and other alternatives that may help us do that.” A White House statement said that while the idea may“ultimately be acceptable, this provision has not previously been shared, or even discussed, with the administration.” The day before the House vote, the administration asked that it be deleted from the act. But on Thursday the House passed the act, 395-7, with the provision intact. It is currently pending action in the Senate. U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, favors the idea as a way to“systematically broaden the student body.” ”It will become part of the standard list of options for academy appointments in congressional offices,” Courtney said.“Now it doesn't even exist in the minds of congressional staff or high school students who are considering an academy for higher education.” The academy would have to allocate the current number of cadet positions to each state, proportional to the representation in Congress from that state, and a set number of positions to residents of the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. Academy officials can then offer appointments to students who meet these criteria and the admission requirements. Some students may be appointed to the academy without competing in this way, including children of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and children of service members who died while on active duty. Chief Warrant Officer David M. French, an academy spokesman, said Tuesday that academy officials could not comment on pending legislation.