Since Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced in December that all combat positions must open up to women across the services, military officials have insisted standards for mental and physical fitness will not lower to accommodate women, but countless experts and former military servicemembers consider all such promises to be little more than empty words.

Here’s exactly how a shift in standards in the infantry and elite special operations could happen.

Back on January 24, 2013, during a Pentagon news conference, then-Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, planted the seeds for a future downward trajectory in standards. His revealing statement has become known as the “Dempsey Rule.”

 “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,” Dempsey said.

In a letter Dempsey sent January 9, 2013, he admitted there would need to be a “sufficient cadre” of women pushed into infantry roles.

The Dempsey Rule, combined with the forward goal of a “sufficient cadre” of women, is likely to place massive downward pressure on standards. Additionally, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission produced a report in 2011, which recommended the achievement of what it referred to as gender “diversity metrics” in combat roles, which many observers have interpreted as the institution of a quota system.

Commenting on the gradual build-up to removing all gender barriers to combat roles, retired Army lieutenant colonel and West Point graduate Robert Maginnis gave an interview with Time Magazine in 2013, in which he stated the opening of combat roles to women would inevitably result in lower standards.

“I don’t believe them, and neither should the American people … Personnel policy, however, is driven by the ‘diversity metrics’ outlined in the 2011 Report of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission. Diversity, not military readiness, is the highest priority.”

GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter, at a recent event put on by the Independent Women’s Forum and the London Center for Policy Research, said infantry integration wouldn’t be nearly as much a problem if standards remained high. But because of the Pentagon’s obsession with diversity metrics, quotas are inevitable, and if quotas are inevitable, standards will have to shift to guarantee a baseline of female representation in infantry and special ops.

“If the standards stay high, it’s not a big deal,” Hunter said Wednesday. “That’s what they say. Here’s what the problem is: the standards will change because we will have a quota.”

And as retired Lieutenant Colonel Tony Shaffer noted, “a quota system is code word for a path away from standards.”

Speaking at the same event, Amber Smith, senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, said there’s a danger standards will be lowered if the same practice of maintaining separate physical requirements for women is ported over to infantry and special operations.

Currently, women are measured against other women under a distinct set of standards separate from males. Smith thinks that performance should be judged exclusively by mission standards, as opposed to this sort of “gender standard.”

“When I mean a mission standard, it means in order to qualify for special operations, you need to meet that mission standard, whether that physical requirement is to try out and contribute to the mission, be a part of the team, or have mission success,” Smith said.

In other words, women should have to met the same, exact physical requirements as men, and those requirements should be based on what it takes to successfully execute missions. No exceptions. Any other alternative in infantry or special operations, Smith said, is likely to cause discord and create resentment among the males, who had to gain entrance through a much tougher standard than the females.

Aside from policy experts, special operators, too, think department leaders are likely to  “capitulate to political pressure, allowing erosion of training standards,” according to The Associated Press.

The first signs of quota implementation are already starting to show.

The gender integration plan presented by the Marine Corps mandates that every ground combat battalion must have a minimum of two female officers. This must take place 90 days before other female Marines join the unit.