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Retired generals say young Americans are too fat and it’s a national security issue

Sailors from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 begin a 1.5 mile run during the Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) at Naval Base Ventura County. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Petty Officer Chris Fahey/Released)
December 29, 2020

A group of retired U.S. military admirals and generals is warning that too many Americans are overweight, poorly educated, or otherwise ineligible for service and it represents a “significant threat” to America’s ability to recruit new troops.

Mission: Readiness, a non-partisan group consisting of nearly 800 retired U.S. admirals and generals, recently sent a letter to acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, calling on the Department of Defense to address the major issues preventing 71 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 from being eligible to serve.

“As you know, 71 percent of young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are currently ineligible for military service, primarily because they are too poorly educated, too overweight, or have a history of crime or substance
abuse,” Mission: Readiness’ Dec. 17 letter reads. The letter was signed by retired U.S. Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser, III and retired U.S. Coast Guard Adm. James M. Loy.

A 2018 report by the Heritage Foundation found 71 percent of Americans between 17 and 24 are ineligible to serve, based on Pentagon data and service standards.

“These factors largely fall outside of the Department of Defense’s purview, but have an immense impact on the ability of the military to recruit new servicemembers as well as a significant monetary impact on the Department,” the group’s letter continues. “Without coordinated action, these trends pose a significant threat to the future of the all-volunteer force.”

The group of retired military leaders called on Miller to form an advisory committee between members of the Department of Defense, and the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services,
and Justice, to address the various issues preventing America’s youth from joining the military and serving. The letter echoes language the Senate Armed Services Committee included in a report for the 2021 defense budget, recommending a similar advisory group to address the military recruiting challenges.

“By working closely with this interagency task force, the Department can create a long-term strategy to address the biggest disqualifiers for military service and ensure that more young Americans are able to join the military if that is the path they wish to take,” the group’s letter reads. “We believe this is a critical step to the sustainability of the all-volunteer force and critical for our future strength and national security.”

Mission: Readiness formed in 2009, and advocates for nutritious foods and physical activity for America’s youth, as well as early childhood education and strong academic standards to prepare youth to be able to join the military if they choose.