Lawmakers Slam Obama Budget Cuts to Israeli Missile Defense

Pentagon defends cuts

Israeli soldiers are seen near an Iron Dome battery near Jerusalem / AP

Top lawmakers continued to lash out at the Obama administration on Thursday for proposing to cut joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs by nearly $200 million compared to last year’s levels.

Under the president’s 2015 budget proposal, Israeli Cooperative Programs—which include key defense systems such as Arrow II, Arrow III, and David’s Sling—are slated to receive $96.8 million, a reduction of nearly $200 million from the previous year’s levels.

The reduction in funding originally came to light on the same day Israel intercepted an Iranian shipment of advanced weapons destined for Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), the House Republican chief deputy whip and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, said the dip in funding proves that the White House’s budget priorities are askew.

"The fact that the administration’s budget proposes massive cuts to U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation, while maintaining billions of dollars of wasteful spending for programs including Obamacare, exhibits fundamentally skewed fiscal priorities," Roskam told the Washington Free Beacon.

Israel is experiencing an uptick in rocket attacks from the Palestinian territories. The missile defense programs are one of the few lines of defense for Israeli citizens, Roskam said.

"These cooperative programs save lives, prevent conflict escalation, and are a joint financial and technological venture between the United States and Israel," Roskam said. "They are the first line of defense against the thousands of rockets pointed at Israel at any given moment."

Roskam accused the administration of coddling America’s enemies and abandoning its allies.

"President Obama’s conciliatory foreign policy empowers our greatest enemies, such as Iran and Syria, while his budget agenda simultaneously seeks to curb critical investments in our national security and key allies," he said.

The Pentagon is standing by Obama’s budgetary choices, which it says were formed in close collaboration with Israel.

"Throughout the development of these critical missile defense systems, our goal has been to ensure that U.S. investments meet Israel's security and their production capacity," Carl Woog, an assistant press secretary at the Pentagon, told the Free Beacon.

"To that end, the department's submission was determined in close consultation with Israeli leaders and this submission fully meets their needs," he said.

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) also expressed outrage, saying that now is not the time to pull back on funding to Israel.

"This is clearly not the time to step back from our support of Israel and her defense," RJC executive director Matt Brooks said in a statement. "Yet President Obama proposes significantly cutting U.S. funding for joint missile defense projects with Israel at this dangerous time."

"The president continues to claim that he is deeply committed to Israel's security. But this is the third year in a row that he has proposed massive cuts for these missile defense programs," Brooks said. "Once again, his actions on Israel are at odds with his words."

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R., Colo.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was the first lawmaker to criticize Obama’s budget proposal.

"This is very disappointing and it is irresponsible to cut funding to a steadfast ally in an extremely volatile region of the world," Lamborn told the Free Beacon on Wednesday.

The administration requested $95 million for these programs in fiscal year 2014, leading congressional appropriators to up the amount to $283.7 million. It is expected that lawmakers will take a similar course this year so funding levels can remain at a similar level

Israel’s missile defense systems such as Iron Dome have helped counter the rising threat from Palestinian terrorists, who have fired scores of rockets at Israeli citizens since the beginning of the year.

Iron Dome and the more advanced Arrow system could become more critical to Israeli security in the coming months as Iran seeks to arm terrorists across the Middle East.

Israeli military personnel intercepted a shipment of Iranian arms on Wednesday and warned that it was just one of many attempts by Tehran to arm the Jewish state’s enemies.

"These efforts to smuggle weapons in the north and south are continuous," said Israeli Defense Forces’ Chief of Staff Benny Gantz."They demand consistent and far-reaching intelligence, alongside effective operations, which the IDF must carry out occasionally with the appropriate degree of force."

Meanwhile, Iran is slated to receive another $550 million in cash assets this week as part of the interim nuclear accord signed last year.