Last week three U.S. Army generals called attention to the “next existential threat” facing the United States. No, it’s not global warming, ISIS, or North Korea. The next existential threat facing the United States is the inability to recruit enough able-bodied volunteers to fight a war.
The Heritage Foundation hosted the talk, entitled “A Looming National Security Crisis: Young Americans Unable to Join the Military.” You can watch the full video above, but the briefing alone is alarming:
“The U.S. armed forces depend on approximately 200,000 citizens to volunteer every year. Unfortunately, the Pentagon reports that 71 percent of Americans aged 17 to 24 cannot join the military, due primarily to inadequate education, physical unfitness, record of serious crime, or drug abuse.”
And as Representative Don Bacon explained, “the majority of it is physical conditioning.” This is to say that lack of health and fitness is the main factor preventing Americans from qualifying for military service. So soda and sedentarism aren’t just making us sick—they’re national security threats.
On the panel was Major General Malcolm Frost, the Commanding General at the Center for Initial Military Training. In that position General Frost is in charge of training all initial volunteers for U.S. Army service. His command takes civilian volunteers and turns them into soldiers. Frost stated that the only existential threat currently facing our nation is Russia’s nuclear arsenal (view here). But, he continued,
“… the next existential threat that we have, maybe a generation down the line is … the inability to provide qualified people, volunteers to serve in our military.”
Lieutenant General John Bednarek (Ret.), a member of the non-profit Mission: Readiness, went further:
“This is not just an Army problem. This is not even a joint problem, of all the services. This is a national issue tied to the national security of America. Period, blank, up front and in your face … It is getting worse, not better.”
It’s not all bad news. CrossFit has expanded from 1 to 14,000 gyms since 2002, put thousands of military personnel through its Level 1 Certificate Course, and the U.S. government is currently funding a $2.4-million-dollar study on employing CrossFit in the Army.
Yet the trend towards higher chronic disease rates continues unabated. I attended this Heritage Foundation talk and argued that the Generals,
“… may have actually understated the extent of the problem. Chronic disease is responsible for 88% of the deaths in the United States. So that’s diabetes, heart disease, most types of cancer. And that’s again, over 2 million deaths, almost entirely preventable and due to lifestyle causes, that is a lack of exercise and poor nutrition. This is costing the United States $2.7 trillion every year in health care …”
I should have mentioned that there’s no top-down solution in sight. In fact, the agencies in charge of protecting us from chronic disease (CDC and NIH) have partnered with the corporations causing it (mainly Big Soda). And the CDC has understated the diabetes rate even while it artificially inflated its prevention statistics.
Back to the Generals. While they did not mention the CDC and NIH issues that CrossFit and its partners have exposed, they did agree that there are no easy solutions in sight, and that no policy attempted so far has worked. Lt. Gen. Bednarek best summarized the event by asking his fellow Americans,
“What the hell are we doing about it?”