According to a recent report by the Heritage Foundation, nearly three-quarters of young Americans are ineligible to serve in the United State military.
Factors affecting eligibility include health problems, criminal records or poor education, and the lack of potential enlistments may hinder any plans in beefing up America’s armed forces.
Citing Pentagon data, Americans who are ages 17 to 24 who do not qualify for the military pose an “alarming” threat to national security and risk derailing President Donald Trump’s plan to strengthen a depleted military.
President Trump recently revealed his $700 billion defense budget that aims to vastly expand and strengthen the military by adding 25,900 troops through October 2019 and another 56,600 by 2023.
The Pentagon estimates that 24 million of the 34 million American between 17 and 24 years old, or 71 percent, cannot serve in any branch of the armed forces. The issue affecting the greatest number of potential recruits, nearly half of eligible individuals, is health-related.
“The health of young Americans is getting worse, and it’s not just obesity — though that’s the biggest burden — but also growing asthma, joint problems, stuff like that,” retired Army Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, co-author of the Heritage Paper, told the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday.
“You don’t have to be this lean, mean, fighting machine to enlist in the military. They’ll take people who are pudgy, but if you’re obese or severely overweight there’s just not enough time in the basic training process to get them where they need to be and there’s also a risk that they’ll injure themselves once you get them running and put all the equipment on them.”
Across the four branches of the military, the Army has had the hardest time finding suitable recruits. Just 23 percent of young Americans are qualified to enlist. Of those who have the desire to enlist, 47 percent of males and 59 percent of females fail physical fitness tests during basic training.
“The military depends on a constant flow of volunteers every year to meet its requirements, and as the number of eligible Americans declines, it will be increasingly difficult to meet the needs,” the report stated. “This is not a distant problem to address decades from now. The U.S. military is already having a hard time attracting enough qualified volunteers.”
While some have suggested lowering the standards to join the military, Spoehr expressed that more lenient requirements wold result in “less capable, less lethal military.”
“Every one of these standards has come into place overtime for a reason,” he said. “It’s the quality of the soldier that’s going to carry the day. If we don’t have a good product, then no matter how good a jet fighter, or a tank, or a rifle we buy that person, if the quality of the soldier, the marine, or the airman is not there, we’re not going to succeed.”