Retired military generals warn that U.S. kids need to slim down and shape up or we won’t have enough young people to fight in years to come.
More than three-fourths of Americans ages 17 to 24 aren’t eligible to join the military because they are overweight or don’t meet other basic requirements, like literacy or a high school diploma.
CNBC reporter Allison Linn says there’s a “real fear” among the nation’s highest-ranking retired military officials about the future of the military.
They say improving national security now relies on improving the health and education of U.S. kids, starting in pre-K.
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"It's not just a school problem. It's not just a Department (of Education) problem. It's a national security issue and it needs to be prioritized that way," retired Maj. Gen. D. Allen Youngman told CNBC.
Hundreds of military officers are getting involved with a non-profit organization called Mission: Readiness, which lobbies lawmakers for healthier school lunches.
“Schools are selling 400 billion calories of junk food every year—the equivalent of nearly two billion candy bars and more than the weight of the aircraft carrier Midway,” says the organization’s “Still Too Fat to Fight."
“The report also discusses how childhood obesity is a national security issue, with one in four young adults too overweight to serve in the military,” says the organization’s website. “In addition, the military spends well over $1 billion a year on treating weight-related diseases.”
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From 1995 to 2008, there were 140,000 Americans who went to recruiting centers but failed entrance physicals because of their weight.
“Today, otherwise excellent recruit prospects, some of them with generations of sterling military service in their family history, are being turned away because they are just too overweight,” the report says.
About 36 percent of U.S. adults are obesed, according to the CDC.
"If you have a very small (group) who are interested to begin with, and then the majority are not qualified, you can get into a pickle quickly," said Youngman.
"The folks that are going to enter the military in 2025 are in school right now," Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Norman Seip told Reuters. "So it's up to us to ensure that when those children reach the age of between 17 and 24 that they are ready or eligible to join the military."