The Pentagon Fights Sprawl

The Military Declares War on Sprawl

The Pentagon thinks better designed, more walkable bases can help curb obesity and improve troops’ fitness.

CityLab, June 26, 2017

Busy each day with thousands or tens of thousands of people, a military base is a mini-city. It has its own police, fire, and recreation departments, and even a “mayor” (the base commander). It has traffic, crime, and pollution, just like a regular city. And its residents are dealing with a major public health concern—obesity. Now the U.S. Department of Defense is looking to the environment of the base itself to get its forces into shape.

Every large employer these days seems to be pushing a health and wellness initiative. But the health of the million-plus workforce of the Pentagon is critical to national security: Troops who don’t meet a minimum fitness standard can’t fight. Treating illnesses associated with obesity and tobacco use costs the Pentagon $3 billion a year. More troops were evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan because of serious sprains and fractures—which overweight and less fit people are prone to—than because of combat injuries.

“From a readiness perspective, our service members are supposed to be fit,” says Ed Miles, director of strategy and innovation for military community and family policy at the DoD. “But we’re just like everybody else. We lack time; we lack facilities.”

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Photograph by Kelley McCall/AP