So you’re headed back to your duty station after holiday leave and it hits you: You should’ve taken your younger brother up on that trip to the fitness center and skipped that third helping of mom’s peach cobbler. At the same time, you remember that you have a PFT coming up in a few weeks.
Here’s more good news: The Pentagon is about to hit the streets with a new policy that will change body fat standards for troops, according to a Military Times report.
The “body mass index” or “BMI” has been controversial since it was first instituted across the U.S. military nearly 30 years ago. Critics claim that the method of measuring body fat using two variables — neck size and waist size — is inherently flawed in that it punishes certain body types and rewards others without actually considering physical readiness.
Regardless of that, however, one thing is true (and of concern to military leaders): The U.S. military has gotten fatter over the last few years.
Service members who fail BMI standards are put on a mandatory weight loss program, something that will be reflected in subsequent performance appraisals. And if they fail to get BMI within standards, they can be administratively separated from the service.
Of course, this obesity epidemic has also affected the overall population, especially young Americans. In 2015 a group of retired generals calling themselves “Mission Readiness” published a report titled “Too Fat to Fight” that stated that at least nine million 17-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. are too fat to serve in the military — 27 percent of all young adults in America. The generals characterized that statistic as a threat to recruiting and therefore a threat to the future of national defense.
As a result of all of this, the Pentagon has been faced with having to balance standards of readiness with threats to retention. And while reports suggest DoD is about to modify the BMI, it’s unclear whether they intend to make it more stringent or relaxed.
“We have a potential liability on the battlefield,” Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this year, Military Times reported. “The minute we lose that competitive advantage in combat because our enemies are training harder than we are, we’ll have more problems than we have right now.”