Feb 20, 2018

The dwindling pool of Americans eligible for military service

U.S. Army soldiers line up. Photo: Matej Divizna / Getty Images

Close to 75% of young Americans, ages 17 to 24, are not eligible for the military due to health issues or criminal backgrounds, Politico's Bryan Bender reports, citing government data. That's 24 million out of 34 million individuals.

The bottom line: Rising rates of obesity and asthma as well as falling rates of high school graduation in certain cities are shrinking the pool of Americans eligible for military service. It's an obstacle for President Trump's defense plan, which includes recruiting "tens of thousands of new soldiers, sailors, pilots and cyber specialists over the next five years" to build up the military, writes Bender.

"We all have this image in our mind of this hearty American citizen, scrappy, that can do anything ... That image we keep in our heads is no longer accurate."
— Retired Army Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, who has co-authored a paper on the recruiting crisis, told Politico.

By the numbers:

  • "The new budget calls for increasing the size of the military by 25,900 people through October 2019 and by a total of 56,600 by 2023 — all mostly active-duty troops."
  • The obesity rate among younger adults is about 32%, per CDC data.
  • High school graduation rates hit an all-time high of 84.1% in 2017, but there are still major cities and states reporting much lower rates, such as 70.7% in Montgomery, Alabama and 51.3% in Albany, Oregon, Spoehr notes. Young people must have high school degrees or GEDs to serve.
  • And unemployment sits at 4%, which makes military recruiting difficult.

Go deeper

LATAM Airlines files for U.S. chapter 11 bankruptcy

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LATAM Airlines Group SA said in a statement early Tuesday the firm and its affiliates in in the United States, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

Why it matters: Latam is Latin America's largest airline and its shareholders include Delta Air Lines. CEO Roberto Alvo noted in the statement the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the airline industry.

Novavax starts human trials for coronavirus vaccine

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Novavax began clinical trials of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus in Australia on Tuesday, per a statement from the Maryland-based biotechnology firm.

The state of play: 131 volunteers in the Australian cities of Melbourne and Brisbane will undergo injections as part of the study, the company’s research chief Gregory Glenn said during a briefing, per Australian Associated Press.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 5,495,061 — Total deaths: 346,232 — Total recoveries — 2,231,738Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 1,662,302 — Total deaths: 98,220 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy