Rep. Hunter looks to lock-in gender-neutral combat standards

Despite the Pentagon's assurances, Hunter wants to write "gender-neutral" into law, in part because he doesn't want future military leaders to change course and change the standards, a Hunter aide said.

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Hunter does not oppose the end of the ban outright, the aide said, but he is concerned about maintaining the highest-quality military and felt the move was “rushed.”

“There seems to be consensus that standards need to stay neutral,” Hunter said in a statement. “It’s about the individual and the job they train to do and especially for combat specialties, it’s important that we continue maintaining high quality standards across the board.”

Hunter isn’t the only Republican looking at weighing in on the Pentagon’s move to end the women-in-combat ban.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is eyeing a different tack than Hunter. Inhofe said last week when the ban was rescinded that he would consider legislation to block changes the Pentagon makes that were "detrimental to our fighting forces and their capabilities.”

“I suspect there will be cases where legislation becomes necessary,” Inhofe said.

Hunter is looking at adding the gender-neutral provisions to this year’s Defense authorization bill, although he hasn’t ruled out a standalone bill if the idea attracts bipartisan support, the aide said.

The military services have until 2016 to determine any occupations or units they believe women should continue to be excluded from. The services will present their plans to the Defense secretary by mid-May to begin opening up new positions to women.