In a budget season where so many programs saw cuts from Congress to free up funds for higher priorities, one area that saw significant support from lawmakers has been the United States’ missile defense programs with Israel.
The Pentagon had requested $176 million for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system and another $96.8 million for other Israeli cooperative programs: $10.7 million for the Israeli Arrow program, $54.4 million for the Arrow 3 program, and $31.7 million for the Israeli Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense program, also known as David’s Sling.
But members of the House and Senate armed services committees rushed to provide even more money. The House Appropriations Committee this week passed a spending bill with additional funds, and the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee held a hearing on the missile defense budget this week where members spoke highly of the programs.
Both the House and Senate armed services committees doubled Iron Dome spending, citing a request from the Israeli government for another $175 million to produce the system’s interceptors. The House’s bill also included an additional $172 million for an Arrow improvement program, Arrow 3 and David’s Sling. The Senate’s version of the bill does not authorize extra money for those three programs but says Israel could use its $175 million in extra Iron Dome funding for any of the smaller programs if it were in the best interest of Israeli national security.
The House appropriators agreed with the need to spend more on the full range of Israeli defense programs: they included $351 million for Iron Dome, $138 million for David’s Sling, $75 million for Arrow 3, and $56 million for Arrow improvements.
As the Senate defense appropriators met to discuss missile defense for the first time this year in a June 11 hearing, their support of the programs was clear. Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm. James Syring told the senators that he had visited Israel to see the missile threat first-hand, and he had only praise for the programs.
“The Iron Dome system is incredibly effective,” he said. “When it needs to intercept, it does. It has proven very, very effective.”
In addition, Syring noted that a March 5 agreement between MDA and its Israeli counterpart would lead to American contractors 30 percent of Iron Dome production work in the first year and 55 percent in the second year.
“With the coproduction agreement, and with the ongoing contract negotiations that are going on between the U.S. company and Israeli company, we will work through those details together to come up with the right cost model and the right overall price to the government of Israel,” he said, assuring the lawmakers that their money would be well-spent.
Asked after the hearing how this program has fared so well in this budget environment when so many others were trimmed or cut, Syring told Defense Daily that Israelis “are under a very real threat that we don’t face in terms of kids taking shelter, being afraid at school. And we have a vested interest in their safety and stability, and I view it as a good investment.”
In addition to American companies gaining some work in the coproduction agreement, Syring added that MDA was gaining a lot of knowledge to apply to domestic programs down the road.
“We’re learning a lot on David’s Sling in particular, in Arrow, and we’re learning a lot on the Silver Sparrow target that are very, I think, good possibilities for us in the future,” he said, referring to the target that simulates an Iranian Shahab-3 missile.