Obesity and Other Problems Barring Teens from Military Service Need National Attention, Leaders Say

Military leaders are concerned about the shrinking pool of young people qualifying for military service, and some are calling on the incumbent defense minister to take immediate action.
More than 70% of young Americans still cannot join the military because of obesity, education problems, or criminal and drug files. Reversing that should be an issue of national concern, said counteradministrator Dennis Velez, head of the Navy Recruiting Command.
"It is something we should keep working as a nation ... to make sure our children are healthier," he said.
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Mission: Readiness, a group of nearly 800 retired generals and admirals, agrees. You have asked Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller to immediately set up a multi-agency task force to evaluate how the government can solve the problems so that so many young people cannot serve in uniform.
"Without coordinated action, these trends pose a significant threat to the future of volunteers," the group wrote in a letter to Miller last week.
The heads of state and government are calling on the Ministry of Defense to work with the ministries of agriculture, education, health, human services and justice to address the issues. It aligns with a recommendation in the 2021 Defense Policy Bill, in which lawmakers asked the Secretary of Defense to work with other federal departments to resolve issues affecting the military's ability to recruit new members of the military.
Defense officials did not immediately respond to questions about whether Miller would assemble the task force immediately. Mission: Willingness said many of the factors that make young people unable to serve are outside the remit of the Department of Defense.
"We believe this is a critical step in the sustainability of the volunteers and critical to our future strength and national security," the group wrote.
Maj. Gen. Jason Bohm, head of the Marine Corps' recruiting service, said far less than 30% of young people are eligible to serve in the industry.
"If you break it down further into those skills, intelligence levels, and physical skills, the ones we want to put into the Marine Corps quickly go down to about 7%," he said.
"That is an enormous challenge."
- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.
Related Topics: Fewer military recruits were released from boot camp in 2020. Here's why
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