The United States has a growing national security problem: Many Americans are becoming too fat to serve in the Armed Forces.
The Washington Post points out in a recent piece that obesity is the leading cause of ineligibility for people who want to join the U.S. Army, and the number of troops being discharged for failing fitness scores is snowballing.
From the year 1998 to 2010, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, the number of active-duty military personnel described as overweight or obese tripled with 86,186 troops (5.3 percent of the force) in the category by 2010.
As commanders prepare for drawdowns in combat zones and mandates that require military reduction in force, physical fitness is coming under much scrutiny in military units. In the first 10 months of this year, 1,625 troops were discharged for being physically unfit for service, five times the number let go for the same reasons in 2007 at the height of Mideast conflict.
“During a war period, when we were ramping up, the physical standards didn’t have a lot of teeth because we needed bodies to go overseas, to fill platoons and brigades,” said Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL and fitness expert told The Post. “During a period of drawdown, everything starts getting teeth, and that’s kind of where we are again.”