Carter declares ‘no exceptions’; US, Afghan SOF mount prison break; ISIS fight reshapes US arms flows; Bill Perry is worried; and a bit more...

“No exceptions”—the U.S. military plans to open all jobs to women at the beginning of 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Thursday, standing alone at a Pentagon podium.

“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, and lead infantry soldiers into combat,” Carter said. “They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”

After three years of study by the military service secretaries, the service chiefs, and U.S. Special Operations Command, the only request to keep some jobs closed came from the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph Dunford — now chairman of the Joint Chiefs, writes Defense One’s Kevin Baron. Thus Thursday’s news “was a different public relations approach to a major personnel announcement, which generally feature 4-star commanders.”

Dunford’s response, delivered via a statement after the announcement: “In the wake of the secretary’s decision, my responsibility is to ensure his decision is properly implemented.”

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’s position: “Our process and studies showed that as long as someone can meet operationally relevant, occupation-specific, gender-neutral individual standards, that person is qualified to serve. Gender does not define the Service of a United States Sailor or Marine — instead, it is their character, selflessness, and abilities.” Read the rest, here.

Study: 85% of SOF opposed serving with women. In a nearly 300-page report obtained exclusively by Defense One, RAND researchers make clear that special operators, particularly SEALs, Air Force special operations forces and non-commissioned officers, “appeared most strongly opposed” to integrating women into special operations forces.” The study concludes that it’ll take serious leadership and a gender-neutral standard for performance to persuade all-male special ops units to accept women. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon has that, here.

Will women now be required to register for the draft? Stars and Stripes’ Tara Copp investigates through the lens of a pending federal lawsuit that goes before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California on Tuesday.

Meantime back in D.C.: “Congress has 30 days to review [Carter’s decision], and leaders from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees promised to give “proper and rigorous oversight” to the decision's potential long-term effects on the force.” Military Times’ Leo Shane III rolls up the reaction from Capitol Hill, here.

For a full list of combat jobs that will be open to women, Military Times has this.

And meanwhile, in Tokyo: Japan’s military is recruiting more women for its growing global role. From Quartz, here.

Overnight: U.S. and Afghan special forces troops rescued at least 40 captured Afghan security forces held in a Taliban prison in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province. “The Afghan Special Security Forces’ ground element and the Special Mission Wing conducted a helicopter assault mission in Nawzad district, Helmand Province,” said a Pentagon statement that did not specify which U.S. units participated. “After securing the prison, Afghan forces freed more than 40 prisoners comprised of Afghan Police, Afghan National Army and Afghan Border Police members.”

An Afghan military spokesman told NBC News the number of those rescued topped 60, “including Afghan security personnel, policemen and civilians.”

The U.S. “has been eliminating a mid- to high-level Islamic State figure every two days, on average,” the Washington Post reports. It’s the product of the increased operational tempo the White House seeks in its efforts to make in-roads in defeating the group.

The U.S. Air Force is burning through its Hellfires, “depleting its stocks of munitions and prompting the service to scour depots around the world for more weapons and to find money to buy them,” USA Today reports.

“We’re in the business of killing terrorists and business is good,” U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said channeling a memorable movie line from the descendant of mountain man Jim Bridger. “We need to replenish our munitions stock,” she said. “Weapons take years to produce from the day the contract is assigned until they roll off the production line.”

More broadly, the U.S.-led effort to defeat ISIS is re-shaping American arms exports to its allies, Defense One Global Business Reporter Marcus Weisgerber writes. And the kinds of weapons going to those countries — Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and others — have shifted dramatically.

“Earlier deals focused largely on longer-term investments, maintaining existing equipment, and building up weapons stocks,” he writes. “The more recent ones have been largely for tactical equipment: bombs, missiles, tanks, armored trucks and antitank weapons needed on the battlefield today, according to documents and U.S. government officials.”

Beyond arms sales, the State Department is looking more broadly at how it aligns assistance funding for foreign militaries through regional funding as opposed to a specific country. For a deep-dive into what all this means, read on here.

If—or, when—the U.S. captures the next ISIS leader, the U.S. military is eyeing a “full range” of options for what to do next. And that includes turning them over to U.S. law enforcement, Secretary Carter said Thursday.

“With respects to the expeditionary targeting force and capture, we will deal with that on a case by case basis. It’s gonna depend on the circumstances,” Carter said Thursday in a Pentagon press briefing. When asked by Defense One whether the array of options included U.S. law enforcement adjudication, Carter affirmed that, and added, “and other law enforcement of other nations, so the full range.” More on the issue from Politics Reporter Molly O’Toole, here.

Rumors are circulating over CENTCOM Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin’s replacement. And those rumors now center on America’s top special operations commander, Gen. Joseph Votel, Defense One’s Kevin Baron reported Thursday. “It’s the latest sign of the times that the U.S. military, and President Barack Obama’s administration, continues to see elite counterterrorism and covert operations as the preferred way of warfare—now and into the foreseeable future,” he writes after speaking to multiple U.S. government sources. More, here.

From Defense One

Reserve your seat now for Monday’s Defense One Leadership Briefing with Jeh Johnson: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sits for an intimate conversation with Defense One, on Monday, Dec. 7, to discuss how threats are moving from the battlefield to the homefront, and how DHS is working with the military, Defense Department, intelligence community, and other agencies for a whole-of-government defense against terrorism, cyber attacks, and more. Defense One Executive Editor Kevin Baron moderates the event, 8 a.m. EDT at Washington’s District Architecture Center. Register for your spot here.

Can surveillance drones prevent the next Kunduz? The commander of Air Force special operations describes how a jerry-rigged antenna contributed to the accidental pounding of a hospital — and what solutions are already in the pipeline. Tech Editor Patrick Tucker reports, here.

In Syria, Obama treads a well-worn path from ‘no boots’ to intervention, writes the Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko, who outlines the recipe followed by numerous presidents: downplay a U.S. military commitment, increase that commitment, deny breaking previous pledges, and repeat. Read that, here.

2015 has been a record year for terrorist arrests in the U.S. Since March 2014, 71 people have been arrested on charges connected to the activities of the Islamic State, including 56 this year. A new study from George Washington University outlines the demographics of the people arrested, which paint a chilling picture of ISIL’s recruiting efforts. That from Quartz, here.

Welcome to the Friday edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Tell your friends to subscribe here: Want to see something different? Got news? Let us know:

Nearly every dog in the Syrian fight is invested in the months-long, back-and-forth battle for Aleppo—Damascus, Tehran, Moscow, Western-backed rebels, Nusra Front extremists, and of course, the Islamic State—and still ISIS continues to make incremental gains in the strategic province, the Wall Street Journal reports.

What makes Aleppo so key to the West: it is “home to the last stretch of border between Syria and Turkey controlled by Islamic State” — the border that the U.S. and others are pressing Turkey to seal off with troops.

From Damascus’s perspective (which by extension, means from Russia’s perspective), taking full control of Aleppo “would tighten the government’s grip on the western half of the country, including the coastal region and the capital Damascus.”

For the Kurds, “Parts of the province come between Kurdish strongholds in northeastern Syria and a major Kurdish enclave in the northwest.”

Iran is said to be so invested “that one of its top military commanders, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, is leading it,” the Journal writes. “More than 50 Iranian and Iranian-backed Shiite fighters, including senior officers, have been killed just at this front over the past month, according to a tally compiled mainly from funeral notices issued by pro-Iran militiamen and their supporters and posted on social media.”

And for more than a week, “rebels have been embroiled in clashes with Kurdish militias in the northwestern corner of Aleppo around the city of Afreen. Both sides accuse each other of having started the fight and of committing atrocities against civilians in the area.”

The bottom line: “The battle for the province also clearly illustrates the challenges facing the U.S. and its allies—as well as the regime’s main backers Russia and Iran—as all wade deeper into the conflict.” Read the rest, here.

About those advanced Russian S-300 anti-aircraft systems Moscow plopped down in Syria: “Israel has been quietly testing ways of defeating” a version of the system sold to Cyprus 18 years ago, and that’s been playing a part in joint drills between the Greek and Israeli air forces, Reuters reports. The system is believed to be able to engage “multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles up to 300 km (186 miles) away.”

What did they test? “How the S-300’s lock-on system works, gathering data on its powerful tracking radar and how it might be blinded or bluffed.” More here.

Bill Perry has a thing or two to say about nukes. The U.S. is on the brink of a new nuclear arms race, former Defense Secretary William Perry warned Thursday. Speaking at the Defense Writers Group, Perry said the Pentagon should eliminate the ICBM portion of the “nuclear triad,” which is also made up of long-range bombers and submarines. “Today, we now face the kind of dangers of a nuclear event like we had during the Cold War, an accidental war,” he said. More from Defense News, here.

Perry, who led the Pentagon in the Clinton administration, also weighed in on souring relations with Russia (Washington shares the blame with Moscow, he said) and defense industry consolidation.

Pipe bombs and thousands of rounds of ammo were found at the home of the two shooters in the San Bernardino attack that left 14 dead and nearly two dozen wounded Wednesday. “Law enforcement sources said it appears [the male shooter] Syed Farook was radicalized and the belief contributed to the shooting motivation, though other motivations like workplace grievances could also have played a role.”

But the FBI is treating the case as possibly terrorism, the New York Times reports. “With the F.B.I. examining Mr. Farook’s electronic devices, analysts and agents have found evidence that at least a day before the attacks, he began deleting data leading investigators to believe that he was planning the attack.”

The Times also shares this interactive of those killed in the attack.

The U.S. Army “is grounding all aircraft in active-duty units across the country for the next five days in order to review safety and training procedures in the wake of two deadly helicopter crashes over the past two weeks,” AP reports. “Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., ordered the safety stand-down Thursday. He said soldiers will review flight planning, operations standards, aircraft maintenance training and supervisory responsibilities in order to avoid any future accidents.” More here.