President Obama failed to request enough money to fully fund critical U.S.-Israel missile defense programs, according to a top Democratic lawmaker on the House Appropriations Committee.
Asked today if President Obama had sought adequate funding for joint U.S.-Israel missile defense programs in his 2013 budget proposal, Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) replied, "No."
The Free Beacon was first to report that Obama has requested to reduce the amount of money Israel receives for its critical missile defense systems by $6.3 million relative to the 2012 budget proposal. Among these defense systems are Arrow and David’s Sling, both of which are jointly operated with the U.S.
Rothman, a pro-Israel stalwart who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, said that it will be Congress’ job to increase the amount of money that Israel will receive.
"We’re going to succeed in getting more money for these vitally important joint U.S.-Israel defense programs," Rothman said in an interview during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference.
Rothman was at the conference to deliver a presentation highlighting the strategic importance of Israel’s multiple missile defense initiatives.
The Democrat speculated that Obama has proposed a decrease because he "has a keen appreciation for the legislative process."
Rothman also pointed out that missile defense requests decreased under both the Obama and Bush administrations—only to be restored by Rothman’s committee.
The president has "made the same calculation this year expecting that this number will be plussed up as it was under both President Bush and Obama," Rothman said, adding that while defense initiatives were decreased by 8.5 percent overall, missile defense aid to Israel decreased by just 6.8 percent.
"One could ask why he didn’t cut Israel missile defense by 8.5, but instead it’s a lesser number," Rothman said.
In fiscal year 2011, the administration requested $121.7 million in military aid for Israel’s key missile defense programs, according to the Defense Department. That number dropped to $106.1 million in the 2012 budget proposal, and plummeted again to $99.8 million in Obama’s newly released 2013 proposal.
The lawmaker maintained that even though Obama has proposed a reduction, he remains a stalwart champion of the U.S.-Israel alliance.
"I believe in judging people by the actions that occur under their watch, and what they take responsibility for, the budgets [Obama has] signed," Rothman explained. "The message is on the record and in front of the word, he’s proclaimed [his] … support of the Jewish state of Israel."
Meanwhile, AIPAC’s director of defense affairs warned that cuts to joint U.S.-Israel missile defense programs could spell the end of these critical initiatives.
"Any slippage in the program could cause cancellation and that’s why the full funding is so important," Jeff Kuhnreich told a crowd of pro-Israel AIPAC observers this afternoon.
Kuhnreich added that it has always been left to pro-Israel lawmakers like Rothman to protect Israel’s military aid.
"Every administration that we have worked with [on] missile defense has had multiple issues it’s had to deal with in its own defense structure," he said. "Every year it’s been the Congress’s movement in those programs."