Military obesity is now considered a national security crisis, according to a new report on troop readiness and recruiting.
Currently, a staggering 68 percent of active-duty service members are either overweight or obese, the American Security Project (ASP) explains in its October 2023 white paper.
Military obesity rates for active-duty personnel have more than doubled over the past 10 years from 10.4 percent in 2012 to 21.6 percent in 2022.
“Obesity is the leading disqualifier of military applicants and a primary contributor to in-service injuries and medical discharges,” Courtney Manning, a National Security Research Fell at ASP, states in the report.
The surge in obesity among the armed forces parallels the climb in obesity rates among the general U.S. population.
When ASP last conducted the study in 2018, 44 percent of Americans ages 18-25 were too overweight to serve in the armed forces. Today, as the report notes, 57 percent are either clinically overweight or obese, which reduces the pool of candidates available for service.
In the report, Manning calls the “increase in applicants failing to meet the physical requirements for enlistment [a] national security crisis” while calling on the Pentagon to enact changes.
“The growing prevalence of obesity in service members reduces the readiness of the all-volunteer military, but it isn’t a moral failing; it’s a health crisis,” ASP says.
“Designing an effective strategy to monitor and tackle obesity within the U.S. military begins by treating it like any other chronic disease: consistently recording accurate data and leveraging that data to design effective medical interventions,” the report explains.
Christin Wormuth, the Secretary of the Army, says that the pool of young Americans eligible to serve has shrunk significantly: only about 23 percent of people between 18 and 24 meet standards.
Last year, the Army missed its recruiting goal by 15,000 soldiers.
ASP has proposed a number of solutions for resolving the military’s obesity crisis, saying, “Identifying, diagnosing, and treating obesity within soldiers at the front lines of our national defense may ultimately determine the long-term survival of the force.”