Why shouldn’t women in the military have the same opportunities as men do? Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asked on Thursday. It’s not a matter of lowering standards, he said.

In remarks at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Hagel was asked how he feels about putting females on the front lines of combat — “based on our social background of men being the protectors of women,” as the questioner put it.

Hagel’s reponse:

First, I think everyone understands, and this is the right thing, we can’t lower standards. We have high standards. We should have high standards. Our country has high standards. Our military has always had higher standards. And we need to keep those standards. And so it’s not a matter of lowering standards to assist women to get into combat positions — women don’t want that, you wouldn’t want that — and I think to find the right balance of implementation to allow women to move into these new opportunities and new positions if they want, if they’re qualified, if they can do the job.

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