WASHINGTON — The House Armed Services Committee would boost funding to help procure and produce various Israeli missile defense programs by nearly $200 million above the level requested in the president's defense budget, according to the chairman's mark of the fiscal 2017 defense policy bill.
Several influential lawmakers recently signaled their desire to add funding for such US-Israeli partnership efforts like the Iron Dome air defense system; David's Sling, a medium- and long-range air defense system; and the Arrow family of anti-ballistic missiles.
Adm. James Syring, Missile Defense Agency director, said during a recent Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing that the request from Capitol Hill for funding on top of the president's request of just under $150 million could total almost $600 million.
The HASC's mark would bump the funding for Tamir interceptors for Iron Dome from $42 million requested in the president's budget to $62 million. The committee would also plus up funding for procurement and co-production of David's Sling from $37.21 million to $150 million and the Arrow 3 Upper Tier Missile Defense System from $55.8 million to $120 million.
It remains to be seen what kind of additional funding House appropriators and Senate defense committees would include in their markups.
Israel traditionally receives significant congressional plus-ups from the administration's budget request for cooperative missile defense programs. Over the past 10 years, Congress has appropriated $1.9 billion more than was originally requested by successive administrations.
Last year, Congress augmented the administration's request for Arrow and David's Sling programs by more than 100 percent.
The amount anticipated this year is more than what was enacted for Israeli missile defense funding in 2016. The president requested roughly $150 million and Congress enacted $488 million, according to Syring. Israeli missile defense program funding got a boost from Congress in 2015 as well.
Lawmakers seeking an increase for missile defense funding this year said that Israeli and US national security are strongly linked and that Israel's missile defense innovations are significant to the US.
MDA is in the process of negotiating how the US will deliver funding for the David's Sling production program and for additional interceptors, according to Syring.
The additional funds directly bolster US industry, Syring has said. The Israeli-US partnership on missile defense — and in particular Iron Dome — includes an agreement for co-production of the system that, in fiscal 2015, brought 55 percent of the work to the US. The US and Israel are also negotiating a similar agreement to produce David's Sling including obtaining the technical data package for the system.
The Israel Air Force is expected to declare initial operational capability in the coming weeks of the David's Sling Weapon System, a jointly developed program between Rafael Advanced Systems Ltd. and Raytheon to defend against long-range rockets and short-range ballistic missiles, tens of thousands of which are presumed to be in the arsenal of the Iran-backed, Lebanon-based Shiite Hezbollah organization.
Rafael and Raytheon also co-produce Iron Dome.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.