A missile is launched by an Iron Dome battery in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod. The Pentagon is seeking additional funding to speed production of components for the anti-missile system. (David Buimovitch / AFP)
WASHINGTON — US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent a letter to congressional leadership on Tuesday requesting $225 million in additional US funding to accelerate production of Iron Dome missile-defense components to ensure Israel will have adequate stockpiles to protect itself from rockets launched by Hamas militants in Gaza.
Israel requested the extra components in recent days, and the Pentagon supports the request, which would come on top of the $176 million the Obama administration already requested for the program in the fiscal 2015 defense budget.
In congressional markups this past spring, House and Senate defense and appropriations panels have doubled the Pentagon’s fiscal 2015 budget request for the Iron Dome to $351 million. The House passed its bill in June but the Senate has yet to take up the measure.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said Wednesday morning that the additional money would come on top of the Pentagon’s original request since the congressional plus-ups have yet to be passed. He was unclear what accounts would be used to pay for any additional funding.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, threw his support behind the increased funding on Wednesday, saying in a statement that “the only thing that stands between Israel and a barrage of Hamas rockets is the Iron Dome. We should ensure that Israel has the ability to utilize the Iron Dome and protect innocent civilians from rocket attacks during this crisis and into the future. I applaud Secretary Hagel and the administration for making this request. I will work with my colleagues in Congress to get this request approved.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., confirmed the missile monies will be in the upper chamber’s version of a coming non-war supplemental spending bill.
“The bill includes $225 million in Department of Defense emergency supplemental funding for Israel to procure additional Iron Dome interceptors,” she said in a statement. “The ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza has resulted in thousands of rockets being launched at Israeli cities and towns, and the Iron Dome missile defense system has proven highly effective at neutralizing these threats.”
In Hagel’s letter, he told congressional leaders that “US industrial base issues are associated with support of Iron Dome,” since the agreement between the two countries stipulates that some production be done in the United States.
“However, Israel assesses that it will take another two to three years to reach full production capacity in the United States, which would not address Israel’s current shortfall.”
In addition to the increased Iron Dome spending in the House bill, the House Armed Services Committee included hundreds of millions of dollars more for other Israeli missile programs, including $130 million for Arrow and $137.9 million for David’s Sling.
“In all,” Smith said, “the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act contains more than $600 million in funding for Israeli missile defense and the United States has provided over $1 billion for Iron Dome since its inception, including the FY15 authorization.” ■