Lawmakers call on Army to study buying Iron Dome
By RAN DAGONI | (Tel Aviv, Israel) Globes (Tribune News Service) | Published: April 22, 2018
Members of Congress have called on the U.S. military to examine the immediate purchase of Iron Dome short-range rocket-interception systems from Israel. In a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense co-signed by 40 members of Congress, Reps. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Peter Roskam, R-Ill., also call for a budget of $500 million for support of Israeli missile- and rocket-defense systems in the 2019 fiscal year.
Roskam said in a news release, “U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation is a critical investment in the safety and security of Israel and stability in the Middle East. “This cooperation improves Israel’s ability to defend its citizens and the U.S. Army’s recent tests of Iron Dome is a clear indication that our own forces can benefit from this battle-proven technology.”
The letter itself states, “We also envision the possibility of utilizing U.S.-Israeli missile defense systems beyond the Middle East. Today, our forces face challenges from an emboldened, aggressive, and increasingly militarized Russia, North Korea, and other adversaries heightening our immediate need for advanced missile defense systems to protect our forward-based forces and key fixed installations.
“One option we believe the Subcommittee should carefully study would be supporting the US Army’s immediate acquisition of the Iron Dome system. The Army has recently tested Iron Dome, for which the U.S. has full data rights and a coproduction agreement. Adoption by the Army of Iron Dome could provide an important near-term capability to U.S. forces as well as a surge production capacity if we or Israel required the system in a time of crisis.”
Initial trials of the Iron Dome system in the U.S. were held in September last year at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., which produces the system, teamed with U.S. company Raytheon, which produces in the U.S. 60 percent of the components of the Iron Dome system’s Tamir interceptor missile. Iron Dome competed in that series of trials with systems developed by U.S. defense companies.
The $500 million that the members of Congress seek to allocate to Israeli rocket- and missile-defense systems is identical to the amount being proposed by the White House for this purpose. Under the memorandum of understanding on U.S. military aid to Israel during the next 10 years, from fiscal year 2019, Israel will receive $3.8 billion annually, consisting of $3.3 billion in military aid plus $500 million for developing missile and rocket defense systems. Congress must approve the expenditure every year.
In practice, the aid for the rocket- and missile-defense-system programs will be $200 million less than the aid for these systems in the current financial year.
The reason is that the Trump administration proposed to grant $147 million for these programs in Israel in the 2018 fiscal year. At Israel’s request, the Senate raised the amount by $558 million to $705 million, $100 million more than Israel received for this purpose in the previous year.
From 2019 onward, however, Israel no longer will be able to ask Congress to raise U.S. military aid beyond the amount stipulated in the memorandum of understanding between the two countries. Such requests were made routinely for years, but President Barack Obama, during whose term the memorandum of understanding was signed, insisted on including an Israeli undertaking not to request supplements from Congress.
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