Approximately 71% of the 34 million 17-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. would not qualify for military service because of reasons related to health, physical appearance and educational background, according to the Pentagon.
The ineligible typically includes those who are obese, those who lack a high school diploma or a GED, convicted felons, those taking prescription drugs for ADHD and those with certain tattoos and ear gauges, the Wall Street Journal reports, though some requirements can be waived.
Only 1% of young people are both "eligible and inclined to have conversation with" the military about possible service, according to the Defense Department.
"The quality of people willing to serve has been declining rapidly," Major General Allen Batschelet, the U.S. Army Recruiting Command's commanding general, told the WSJ.
Approximately 180,000 men and women volunteer for and enter active-duty forces each year, though U.S. military activity in recent years has led to some looser standards for recruitment. Only 79% of those enlisted had a high school diploma in 2007, while that figure was 90% in 2001. During the Iraq war, the military was also less strict about soldiers' body fat.
"We have not adopted a zero-defect mentality," said Defense Department spokesman Nathan Christensen, who noted that the military's recruiting targets in recent years have been met. "We evaluate each applicant from a whole-person perspective."