Is Obesity Threatening Our National Security?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

US Army Private First Class Bradley Manning (L), surrounded by US military, arrives at a US military Magistrate Court facility during an Article 32 hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland on December 19, 2011 (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images/Getty)

Obesity is a widely recognized public health crisis. Could it also be a threat to national security?

Twenty-seven percent of Americans aged 17 to 24 are too fat to serve in the United States military. Add that number to those who cannot serve because they have a criminal record or have not graduated from high school, and that means 75 percent of our nation's youth are not eligible to serve in uniform.

According to a new report out Tuesday entitled “Still Too Fat to Fight” (pdf) from the advocacy group Mission: Readiness, that makes obesity America’s greatest threat to national security.

Mission: Readiness is a nonpartisan group of 100 retired generals and admirals. General Norman Seip, is a retired Air Force General and a member of Mission: Readiness.

"We look at this as a team effort," says General Seip. "What's great about our country is that when we decide there's a problem out there that we want to solve, we go and do exactly that." He believes that if America decided to rid itself of the obesity epidemic, we would be able to find a solution.

Perhaps this sounds overly optimistic, but General Seip thinks finding a solution is essential if the American armed forces are to be as strong as we need them. "At the end of the day, what keeps America safe and secure is not the tanks, and not the aircrafts, and not the ships, and not the technology. It's the proud men and women that serve."

Even if you aren't interested in serving in the army, General Seip wants to encourage everyone to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and to promote the same values within their families and communities. "You're going to be a better person in that work force out there," he says. "It's just as competitive as what we find in the military."

Guests:

General Norman Seip

Produced by:

Ellen Frankman and Maggie Penman

Comments [4]

Amanda Levitt from Ferndale, Mi

This organization (and the government) continues to completely ignore that people within the military are three times more likely than civilians to have eating disorders due to the restrictions on BMI, which is a horrible measure of health or ability to be enlisted. We are talking about people who are able to pass their basic skills training but are taking on dangerous disordered eating patterns to conform to an arbitrary standard. I don't know about you but I'm far more worried about people who are going into a combat situation while taking laxatives, purging and starving themselves to keep their job. That is a HUGE national security issue that Mission: Readiness continues to ignore when publishing these "reports."

Also, the report itself ignores the change in BMI standards that happened in 1998 so the map they show the change doesn't take that into account or the fact that average body size leveled off in 2003. People need to stop giving this group a platform to spew bullshit from.

Sep. 28 2012 12:24 AM
Amanda Levitt

This organization (and the government) continues to completely ignore that people within the military are three times more likely than civilians to have eating disorders due to the restrictions on BMI, which is a horrible measure of health or ability to be enlisted. We are talking about people who are able to pass their basic skills training but are taking on dangerous disordered eating patterns to conform to an arbitrary standard. I don't know about you but I'm far more worried about people who are going into a combat situation while taking laxatives, purging and starving themselves to keep their job. That is a HUGE national security issue that Mission: Readiness continues to ignore when publishing these "reports."

Also, the report itself ignores the change in BMI standards that happened in 1998 so the map they show the change doesn't take that into account or the fact that average body size leveled off in 2003. People need to stop giving this group a platform to spew bullshit from.

Sep. 28 2012 12:24 AM
Vesta from Minnesota

It's not obesity that's threatening our national security, it's the fact that the armed forces are refusing enlistees who don't have a high school diploma (my dad enlisted a few months before he graduated and got his GED while he served in the Air Force, back in 1951; my brother enlisted in the Air Force back in 1973 without a high school diploma and got his GED while he served). When the armed forces consider BMI only as a criteria for enlistment eligibility, they're not taking into consideration that BMI doesn't factor in things like bodies with larger skeletons (heavier bones) or bodies with more muscle mass. Those bodies aren't fat, but they will fat into the overweight/obese range on the BMI scale, even though those bodies are metabolically healthy and have no risk factors for developing any of the so-called "obesity-related diseases".
The armed forces also don't take into consideration that most recruits lose anywhere from 10 to 30 lbs in boot camp. So a recruit that is at an optimal weight when he(she) enlists could end up being seriously underweight at the end of boot camp. Not very healthy for the recruit, not very healthy for the armed forces.

Sep. 27 2012 04:45 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I still have my High School Physical Fitness Marine training certificate around here somewhere... but I don't feel like bending over to look for it.

I remember being proud to get that certificate back in the day.

Sep. 27 2012 09:47 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.