The Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer USS Carney fires at Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea on Oct. 19, 2023.

The Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyer USS Carney fires at Houthi missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea on Oct. 19, 2023. (Aaron Lau/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON — The Navy urgently needs Congress to pass a stalled national security spending plan to replenish the nearly $1 billion in munitions spent to counter attacks by Iran and its proxies in the Middle East in the past six months, the Navy secretary said Tuesday.

Expenditures on munitions have skyrocketed since October, when the Hamas-Israeli war started in the Gaza Strip. U.S. forces continue to guard Navy and commercial ships in the Red Sea from Houthi rebel attacks, and American service members helped shoot down missiles launched over the weekend by Iran against Israel.

“It’s critical for Congress to pass a supplemental [spending bill] this week so that we could actually get the additional resources to be able to supplement those munitions,” Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said during testimony to a subpanel of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The $95 billion package to provide aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan contains $2.4 billion to cover the cost of replacing munitions used to intercept enemy missiles and drones.

The Senate approved the legislation in February, but it languished in the House until Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said Monday that he will break the package into three pieces to appease members of his party. The complicated strategy could further delay the aid.

Del Toro said Tuesday that it was important to keep the packages bundled together, describing the efforts to support allies and partners against Russia, Iran and China as interrelated.

In the Middle East, “all roads lead to Iran,” he warned. The nation is a designated state sponsor of terrorism and props up Hamas militants in Gaza, the Hezbollah militant group in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. It has also provided weapons for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The over $2 billion that’s provided for in the supplemental is entirely critical to our Navy and Marine Corps to be able to replenish those munitions and continue to provide the types of defensive measures that we have this past 6½ months now,” Del Toro said.

U.S. forces have so far countered more than 130 direct attacks by Iran-backed Houthi militants on Navy and merchant ships in the Red Sea, he said.

Two Arleigh Burke-class, guided-missile destroyers operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea — the USS Carney and USS Arleigh Burke — shot down at least six Iranian ballistic missiles during Iran’s aerial attack on Israel on April 13 and April 14, according to Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. The U.S. also intercepted more than 80 drones.

“The fact that less than 1% of the weapons reached their targets this weekend in Israel does not in any way reflect to lack of effort or malign intent by Iran,” she said. “Rather, it is a testament to the service members who successfully deployed modern missile defense capabilities.”

Those capabilities are expensive, costing millions of dollars per missile. The Navy has been firing SM-2 missiles, SM-6 missiles and most recently SM-3 missiles to counter the ballistic missile threat from Iran, Del Toro said.

“We are now closely approaching a billion dollars in expenditures for munitions that we need paid back by the supplemental,” he said.

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Svetlana Shkolnikova covers Congress for Stars and Stripes. She previously worked with the House Foreign Affairs Committee as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and spent four years as a general assignment reporter for The Record newspaper in New Jersey and the USA Today Network. A native of Belarus, she has also reported from Moscow, Russia.

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