Gen. Dempsey: If Women Can’t Meet Military Standard, Pentagon Will Ask ‘Does It Really Have to Be That High?’

Gen. Dempsey: If Women Can’t Meet Military Standard, Pentagon Will Ask ‘Does it Really Have to Be that High?’

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that with women now eligible to fill combat roles in the military, commanders must justify why any woman might be excluded – and, if women can’t meet any unit’s standard, the Pentagon will ask: “Does it really have to be that high?”

Dempsey’s comments came at a Pentagon news conference with Defense Sec. Leon Panetta Thursday, announcing the shift in Defense Department policy opening up all combat positions to women.

Dempsey, who is at the pinnacle of the military’s top brass, was asked by a reporter: “You indicated that -- well, at least it sounds like that there may be certain combat operational forays that women might be excluded from still. I mean, what would be the reasons for that? What sorts of operations?”

Dempsey replied: “No, I wouldn't put it in terms of operations, Jim. What I would say is that, as we look at the requirements for a spectrum of conflict, not just COIN, counterinsurgency, we really need to have standards that apply across all of those.”

He added: “Importantly, though, if we do decide that a particular standard is so high that a woman couldn't make it, the burden is now on the service to come back and explain to the secretary, why is it that high? Does it really have to be that high? With the direct combat exclusion provision in place, we never had to have that conversation.”

As CNSNews.com reported, the military acknowledges that women will not be able to fill every combat role:

But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that "everyone is entitled to a chance."

“If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job--and let me be clear, we’re not talking about reducing the qualifications for a job--if they can meet the qualifications for the job then they should have the right to serve,” Panetta said at a Pentagon press conference.

The Defense Department announced Thursday that it would rescind its 1994 policy restricting women from serving in combat-focused positions such as infantry units, potentially opening up 230,000 positions to female service members.