The incoming Trump administration has pledged to boost defense spending and rebuild the military. While this is a welcome sign, there is another more cost-effective way to increase our readiness: improve the fitness of the eligible pool of recruits the Army and other services can draw from.

All the military spending in the world will not matter if our troops are physically unfit to serve. Nearly 8 percent of all military personnel are clinically overweight. That figure is up from 1.8 percent in 2001, when the war in Afghanistan kicked off. The Pentagon estimates that 71 percent of the roughly 34 million 17- to 24-year-olds in the United States today would fail to qualify to serve in uniform based mostly on physical health disqualifications—obesity being the biggest.  All signs show that this problem will only grow.

Read the full piece at The Hill.


Maj. John Spencer is a scholar with the Modern War Institute at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY. A former Ranger Instructor, he has held the ranks of private to sergeant first class and lieutenant to major while serving in ranger, airborne, light, and mechanized infantry units during his 23 years as an infantryman. He looks forward to connecting via Twitter @SpencerGuard.
Lionel Beehner is an assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and director of research at the Modern War Institute.



The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Image credit: Benjamin Faske, DoD