There's a growing internal threat to US national security: 68% of American service members are either obese or overweight.
"Rapid and sustained recurrence of obesity across all services, ranks, and positions now poses a dire threat, especially for at-risk populations and those in critical combat roles," writes the American Security Project (ASP) a DC think tank, in a new 25-page report on the problem.
Perhaps most alarming is the slope of the trendline: The proportion of obese members in the ranks has more than doubled in the last decade, from 10.4% in 2012 to 21.6% in 2022. The military trend has paralleled the similarly disturbing pattern observed across American society:
The military seems to be deliberately hiding its blossoming blubber. ASP criticized Pentagon bureaucrats for "remov[ing] body mass statistics from military recruitment and disability reports used by DoD stakeholders and Congress...result[ing] in incomplete and misleading conclusions" about the challenge facing the armed services.
The problem spans the full life cycle of military service, shrinking the available recruiting pool and then sapping the fighting fitness of service members. The problem is most severe in the Navy, and least severe in the Marines.
ASP urged the military to view obesity as a medical problem, rather than trying to whip fat service members into shape. "Framing obesity as an issue of insufficient willpower or discipline prevents soldiers from seeking and receiving treatment, makes commanders and healthcare workers less inclined to intervene, and worsens health outcomes across the services,” writes the report's author, Courtney Manning.
"Social stigma" is an obstacle, claims Manning, as military leaders too often assume that "overweight people are unmotivated, incompetent, or weak-willed, caus[ing] individuals and services to conceal, obscure and downplay military obesity."
Obesity weighs on recruiters, but it isn't their only challenge as every branch except the Marines is falling short of its goal. "Less than a quarter of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 qualify both academically and physically for military service," notes the New York Post.
Of the remaining, shrinking pool of candidates, fewer are interested in signing up. A 2023 Army study found the top reasons young people reject the idea are fear of death, and fear of falling victim to post-traumatic stress disorder. Beyond that, we're guessing the drive to land new enlistees isn't helped by pointless wars, Covid vaccine mandates or using drag queens as recruiters.
Putin must tremble in fear when he beholds the US Navy's new 'digital ambassador' whose role is to get more recruits. Presenting the fabulous Harpy Daniels aka Joshua Kelly. 🤡 pic.twitter.com/FwNCzSrlsW— David Vance (@DVATW) May 3, 2023