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The military must pull from the “widest possible pool” of applicants for the force of the future, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told troops around the world, Sept. 1. “What matters most is who is qualified and can meet the … rigorous standards of service,” Carter said. The statement came in response to a question about how the recent graduation of two female soldiers from Ranger School would affect opportunities for women in combat arms. Carter echoed the sentiment when answering a question about improving diversity in the ranks, noting the military must make sure there are no hidden biases that prevent the recruitment or retention of minorities. The services must submit plans by the end of the year to integrate male-only jobs to women or explain why those jobs cannot be opened to women. Carter said he will review those plans and make a decision in early 2016. Additionally, Carter said he is waiting for the services to decide how much maternity leave to give troops, so that all the services can “march in lockstep.” The Navy Department recently announced it was tripling maternity leave to 18 weeks, and the Air Force has said it is consi​dering extending maternity and convalescent leave. “I don’t want you to have to choose between your family and serving,” Carter said. (Watch the video of Carter's troop talk.)