Panetta said he and Dempsey have been working on the issue for about a year. In 2012, about 14,000 jobs previously closed to women were opened to both sexes.

“I think we both share the feeling that what were seeing in the men and women in uniform are just outstanding individuals and make a hell of a contribution to this country and who are willing to put their lives on the line,” Panetta said. “And if they’re willing to put their lives on the line, then we ought to recognize that they deserve a chance to serve in any capacity they want.”

Freshman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who served on two deployments to the Middle East as a captain in the Army National Guard, told CNN that arguments regarding hygiene or the distraction of men and women serving together on the front lines don’t take into account the professionalism of those who serve.

“All of the other things that differentiate us, make us unique, whether it be gender or race or religion, all of these things fall aside when you’re there putting the mission first and selflessly serving as that member of a team,” she said.

Gabbard said she does agree with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who supports opening combat roles to women on the condition that they meet the physical standards.

“I think in some of these jobs that do require a great amount of physical fitness those standards should not be compromised,” she said. “If women are in an ability to meet those standards, they should be allowed to serve.”

“I hope that they would have to measure up to the same physical standards because these SEALs are the best example, they’re a small unit. They have to depend on each other,” McCain said on Fox last night.

“And I’m not saying that women can’t perform that way,” he stressed. “I just hope that we would keep the same standard requirements for screening and eligibility to be a member, particularly of some of our elite military units.”