Pentagon Goes After Brig. Gen. Cunniff For Skirting Physical Fitness Requirements

PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – It’s a weighty controversy in the Garden State.

Governor Chris Christie has told the leader of New Jersey’s National Guard to slim down.

The order comes after the Pentagon reprimanded Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Cunniff for his weight, and dodging fitness tests, CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported Tuesday.

Christie and Cunniff have been seen together in the past reviewing troops, but now New Jersey’s National Guard leader is scrutiny himself for not being in shape and flunking, and then skipping, physical fitness tests.

Christie, who appointed Cunniff and is his boss as the state’s commander in chief, didn’t want to talk about the situation on Tuesday.

But in statement, the governor, who has struggled with his own weight for years, including undergoing Lap-Band stomach surgery, said Cunniff didn’t tell him he was reprimanded.

Now, Christie is giving Cunniff 90 days to trim down.

“Every individual in the military has to be combat ready … and he has to meet the physical standards, just like any other member of the U.S. Military,” said retired U.S. Navy Lt. Steven Rogers.

Cunniff admitted in a statement he didn’t meet military fitness requirements, saying, “I have struggled with weight control my entire adult life. However, I do recognize that military members and leaders, like myself, are held to a higher standard.”

He said he’s now training and getting help from a nutritionist.

Rogers said Cunniff should have been a role model.

“Look, you’re a leader, you’re a general, you have a responsibility to your troops to make sure that you’re physically fit,” he said.

One college student, training to be in the Air Force, told Sloan he was disappointed in Cunniff.

“One of our Air Force core values is integrity, so he’s kind of lying. That breaks his core values,” NJIT student Michael La said.

It’s unclear how much weight Cunniff needs to lose, but his waist size was reportedly four-and-half inches over what it should be, according to his last fitness test three years ago, Sloan reported.