Despite the widening rift between Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress, there are still some subjects on which there is a strong bipartisan consensus. At the top of this list of issues military aid to Israel can be found. Senior legislators in the Senate and the House of Representatives from both parties are currently calling for the Obama administration to quadruple the amount allocated in the 2017 financial year for developing Israel's missile defense systems. This is a financing package separate from overall military aid to Israel, which will be $3.1 billion in the 2017 financial year.
The US legislators have yet to set an exact sum that they want added to the Obama administration's original allocation. However Missile Defense Agency director Vice Admiral James Syring yesterday told a Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing that while the president's administration is asking to allocate just under $150 million for funding Israel's missile defense program, Capitol Hill legislators want to raise this amount to "almost $600 million." Such hikes have become a tradition. Each year Congress gives Israel plus-ups for cooperative missile defense programs. Over the past decade these plus-ups, above and beyond the original amount allocated by the administration, have amounted to $1.9 billion.
According to US Defense News, Admiral Syring said that Israel is expected to receive more money for the missile defense program in the 2017 financial year than it receives this year. The White House proposed granting Israel $150 million in 2016 but the final package approved by Congress totaled $488 million. A major "plus-up" was also granted to Israel in 2015 for its major missile defense programs - Iron Dome (short-range interception), David's Sling (medium-range), and Arrow 3 (long-range).
Syring said that increasing financing for the Israeli program would yield direct results for the US defense industry. One of the US-Israel partnership elements, and especially with Iron Dome, is an agreement for joint manufacturing, Syring stressed. In the 2015 financial year, 55% of the work on Iron Dome was carried out in the US. Syring said that the US and Israel are currently holding talks on joint production of David's Sling including the system's technological components.
The legislators requesting to increase missile defense system aid told "Defense News" that there is a strong link between the national defense of Israel and the US and that the innovative technology of the Israeli systems have major significance for Washington. The US sees Israel's missile defense program as a "battle test" for the US technologies used in them, said California House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Brad Sherman.
“Missile defense is crucially important, and coming out of the Iran deal, we want to make clear our commitment to their security has not wavered,” said House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith. “Any threats Israel faces from missiles from the south - from the Gaza Strip, Islamic jihad and Hamas - and from the north and Hezbollah, we want to put them in the position to have a very strong deterrent to that.”
Democrat New York Representative Steve Israel said, "One of the reasons I voted against it (the Iran nuclear agreement) is it is silent on the issue of Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities. Iran is exploiting that silence by increasing its testing. That means we now have to increase our defensive technologies for Gulf Cooperation Council countries and others, which means in the long run we will have to increase our investment in Israel.
Arizona Republican Representative Trent Franks, who chairs both the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus and the Missile Defense Caucus, said, “We have a lot of allies on the appropriations committee. They understand the vital importance of this in terms of our own national security."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on April 14, 2016
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