TEL AVIV, Israel — US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has pledged to enhance "the entire spectrum" of strategic cooperation with Israel, from cyber defense and high-end attack capabilities down to a joint program aimed at combating terror tunnels.
In an address at Fort McNair on Tuesday with visiting Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Carter reiterated the Pentagon's longstanding, "iron clad" commitment to the so-called qualitative military edge (QME) of Israel, which he called "a cornerstone of our strategy in the Middle East."
Carter noted that on Wednesday, he would host Ya'alon at US Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland, followed by a trip to the US Naval Air Station at Patuxent River for a demonstration of capabilities Israel will gain as the only nation in the region to receive the fifth-generation F-35.
"Our defense relationship spans the entire spectrum from tunnels and terrorists right up through the high-end," Carter said, when asked about priorities for enhanced cooperation.
"That's one of the reasons why we'll be with the F-35 tomorrow. We work on all of the techniques, tactics and procedures regarding high-end warfare, in this case warfare from the air, right down to tunnels," Carter said.
He noted that the subterranean threat became "painfully evident" during last summer's Gaza war, and that Washington intended to share some of its anti-tunnel techniques developed over decades in dealing with the threat from North Korea.
Aside from anti-tunnel techniques, Carter cited ongoing sharing of intelligence, electronic warfare techniques and plans to enhance cooperation in the cybernetic realm.
As for funding, Carter pledged continued US support for Israeli active defense programs against rockets and missiles, including Iron Dome, David's Sling and Arrow.
"This is one of the most trusted relationships we have in the world and so when we discover something that is critical to both of us, we share it, and we do that from electronic warfare to cyber to all kinds of … tremendous intelligence sharing."
Carter noted that strategic cooperation works both ways, with Washington often gaining from bilateral ties.
"The alliance is a two-way street, and we appreciate what we get as well as what we give, and it's an alliance that makes us stronger too."
The two sides are intensifying discussions on Israel's enhanced security needs in advance of a Washington summit in early November between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.