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Monday, February 28 12:00 AM ET

Air Force Outsources
Physical Fitness Program

By Robin Berger

Washington D.C. - The Air Force's "Fit to Fight" physical fitness program may soon be called "Contractors Fit to Fight" under a new outsourcing program.

The idea was the brainstorm of a pregnant Lt. Colonel assigned to the Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama. Her term paper, "Every Aviator on the running track is one less Aviator on the flight line," reached the desk of the Air War College Commandant, Major General Robert J. Younger, Sr. He got approval from the Pentagon to experiment with the idea.

In the test program, a civilian contract employee was assigned to take an officer's physical fitness test. The civilian was measured for waist size, and then performed a series of push-ups and sit-ups. Then it was off to the track for a 1.5-mile run.

"The test program was an unqualified success," General Younger beamed. "Fitness scores jumped dramatically for our pregnant officers and 'heavy' cargo pilots," he said. The general added that outsourcing also helped officers who enjoy running but who have large waists or limited upper body strength.

The Air Force has outsourced much of its logistics and support functions since the early 1990s. "In hindsight, the benefits of a contracted physical fitness program seem rather obvious," the general said. Students at the Air War College can focus on their military education while civilian workers deal with tedious exercise rituals.

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The test program helped to uncover some unforeseen problems. "Smokers couldn't give us the running scores we wanted," General Younger noted. "So we added a no-smoking policy to the contract." Thanks to a loophole, one male fighter pilot was able to pick a female contractor. She was tested as a female but her scores were marked down as a male. "The officer received a score above 100%, which isn't possible," the general said. "We closed the loophole and that was that," he said.

Only officers' fitness tests will be outsourced right now, but General Younger believes enlisted members' will be included in the program by fiscal year 2008. "It's just a matter of finding the right budget line item," he said. Until then, enlisted members will continue to take their own fitness tests.

The outsourcing program is scheduled to reach Guard and Reserve units by fiscal year 2011. "We're not too worried about guardsmen now," General Younger admitted. "They use physical fitness waivers to augment their Fit to Fight program."

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