WASHINGTON — F.B.I. agents are on the front lines of the fight to protect the United States from Islamic terrorists, Russian hackers and Chinese spies.
Now they have something far more personal to worry about: their waists.
For the first time in 16 years, the F.B.I. is requiring that its agents pass a fitness test.
“The lives of your colleagues and those you protect may well depend upon your ability to run, fight and shoot, no matter what job you hold,” James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, said in October in an internal memo to agents that was obtained by The New York Times.
The agents, Mr. Comey said, are symbols to Americans of what is “right and good” about the country. “I want you to look like the squared-away object of that reverence. I want the American people to be able to take one glance at you and think, ‘THERE is a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.’ ”
The fitness tests, which started at the end of last year, are a return to a tradition begun by the F.B.I.’s first director, J. Edgar Hoover, who obsessed about his agents’ weight, as well his own considerable girth. More significantly, the tests are a response to concerns throughout the bureau about how its transformation after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, has put more stress on the agents and given them less time for fitness.