The Pentagon is facing a future recruiting challenge as 71 percent of Americans age 17 to 24 do not meet standards for enlistment due to obesity, criminal backgrounds or lack of education, "an alarming situation that threatens the country's fundamental national security," according to a study published by the Heritage Foundation.
"Obesity and the percentage of people overweight in the country has just skyrocketed in the last 10 to 15 years," retired Army Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, co-author of the "The Looming National Security Crisis," told Politico.
"Asthma is going up. High school graduation rates are still just barely acceptable and in some big cities they are miserable. Criminality is also not going away. We have to face the reality that these things in some cases are getting worse, not better."
Army recruiters are hoping to enlist about 80,000 qualified volunteers in fiscal year 2018, and plan to add 4,000 troops to its active force to reach 487,500. The Navy hopes to bring on 7,500 sailors for a total of 335,400, and the Air Force is looking for an additional 4,000 volunteers to reach 329,100 active-duty personnel.
But, "the U.S. military is already having a hard time attracting enough qualified volunteers," according to the Heritage paper.
"Of the four services, the Army has the greatest annual need. The Army anticipates problems with meeting its 2018 goal to enlist 80,000 qualified volunteers, even with increased bonuses and incentives."
President Donald Trump last Monday requested $716 billion for defense, and called for an increase of 16,900 troops over the congressionally authorized troop level. But 90 percent of all recruits must have a high school diploma and there are fitness, weight and moral standards that must be met.
"The problem needs a team effort — at the federal level, the local level, parents, teachers, kids," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Norm Seip, chairman of the Council for a Strong America.
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