Defining Fitness Down

That’s what the Army is doing in order to get the tech skills it needs:

After years of increasing and then enforcing physical standards, the U.S. Army is changing the rules so that it can accept recruits with desperately needed technical skills. To cope with a shortage of techies, especially those with Internet and software skills, the army is going to change its physical fitness requirements so that there are lower standards for essential technical personnel that are not expected to be in combat. Only about ten percent of army personnel have a job that involves spending a lot of time in a combat zone and actually fighting. Another 20 percent of troops have jobs that are likely to get them into a combat zone some of the time and possibly expose them to combat. Another 50 percent could find themselves in a combat zone in wartime but are unlikely to need to fight. The new physical fitness standards will not demand that the tech troops can run as fast or do as many pushups as are now mandated. Infantry and other combat troops have even higher fitness standards. The tech troops will still be expected to keep their weight (but not body fat percentage) under control and look passable in a uniform. This move is controversial but army personnel experts point out that there is no other way to get the tech troops the army needs.

I don’t think there’s anything controversial about this at all — standards can and should change to changing requirements and to changing parameters of warfare.

The Army we fielded in the 1980s — the one which stood down the Soviets on the intra-German border and then went on to defeat the Iraqi Army in 96 hours — had lower physical fitness standards than today’s Army. It had to, because the old Army was much larger, and drawn from a smaller population. As the Army shrinks and the talent pool grows, it gains the luxury of being pickier about who joins, and how fit (or well educated, or well behaved) they must be.

Now we need guys who can sit in front of a computer terminal for 18 or more hours in a row, screwing up the bad guys by remote control. They might not look the part, but they can be deadlier than a flamethrower in the hands of some Captain America-looking GI on a South Pacific hellhole getting real up close and personal with the enemy.