Why obesity is a national security threat

6 Dec 2010

A refreshingly honest look at the impact obesity is having on our military and young people in general from David Frum. He also offers some suggestions and even throws some support to Michelle Obama and the efforts First lady has undertaken.

In 2008, some 634 military personnel were discharged for transgressing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” That same year, 4,555 were discharged for failing to meet military weight standards.

Military weight standards are not especially demanding. Male recruits younger than 27 must have a body-fat percentage below 26%. That’s twice the fat you’d expect in a young man in peak physical condition.

Yet even the relaxed 26% standard is too stringent for modern America. More than 9 million young Americans — about one in four — are too overweight to enlist, a recent report found.

So the military has adjusted its expectations.

Otherwise qualified young men with body fat of 30% (the boundary between “overweight” and “obese”) can be conditionally recruited if they can perform a basic workout and then commit to reduce their weight within one year.