Obama Budget Slashes Israeli Missile Defense Programs

Lamborn slams funding decrease of nearly $200 million

An Iron Dome missile interceptor overlooking Haifa, Israel / AP
March 5, 2014

Joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs would be reduced by nearly $200 million under President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, prompting concern from lawmakers who have fought to keep the critical defense programs fully funded.

Israeli Cooperative Programs—which include the Arrow II, Arrow III, and David’s Sling missile defense systems—are slated to receive $96.8 million under Obama’s newly released budget proposal, a reduction of nearly $200 million from the previous year’s finalized levels.

The funding dip hits as the White House seeks to significantly reduce the overall U.S. defense budget and enact severe cuts to the U.S. military.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R., Colo.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, slammed the administration for insufficiently funding the joint missile projects, which benefit both Israeli and American security.

"Once again, the administration is proposing hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to our cooperative missile defense work with Israel," Lamborn said. "This is very disappointing and it is irresponsible to cut funding to a steadfast ally in an extremely volatile region of the world."

As America’s defense budget shrinks under the weight of sequestration and other budgetary pressures, lawmakers like Lamborn are worried that Israel’s security needs will be jeopardized.

Missile defense programs have long been a priority issue for the Israelis, who are already employing several of these systems to counter an influx of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and other areas.

The United States has access to this technology and can deploy it on the American home front to protect against similar types of attacks.

The Obama administration proposed similar cuts to these programs last year. Congressional appropriators intervened to raise the programs’ funding to more robust levels, approving a total of $283.7 million for these programs in fiscal year 2014 after the Obama administration requested $95 million.

Lawmakers awarded these missile defense programs a total of $268.7 million in fiscal year 2013.

Israel’s Iron Dome, its best-known missile defense system, is also slated to receive less funding than in past years due to the winding down of a three-year agreement with the United States

Iron Dome is in the final year of a $660 million allocation that went to funding the joint program.

Though the program has been fully funded under the terms of the deal, Lamborn said that Iron Dome should receive greater funding in order to help Israel combat a rising terror threat on its borders.

"While the administration will say that the cuts to Iron Dome are due to the end of a pre-existing [agreement], I don’t think we should cut funding for an ally for a system that is saving lives today," Lamborn said. "We should be investing in more Iron Dome batteries to ensure protection for Israel, instead of cutting the funding for it."

The Iron Dome and Arrow systems are seen as the next front in Israeli missile defense.

The more advanced Arrow systems are designed to destroy ballistic missiles while they are in the air, much like the Iron Dome system destroys lower flying rockets fired by Palestinians.

The budgetary wars in Washington come at a sensitive time for Israel, which is experiencing a significant uptick in rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and elsewhere.

The Israeli Air Force last Tuesday struck a crew of terrorists who were planning to fire rockets from Gaza into Southern Israel, which has seen an influx of attacks in recent months.

Nearly 30 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza in January alone, according to the Israeli Defense Forces. Five of these rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.

An increase in funding from Washington could help Israel purchase more of these Iron Dome batteries for use in certain hot zones.