As Iran improves its ballistic missile capabilities, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are pushing for closer coordination with the Israelis on the construction of several advanced missile defense systems.
Reps. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) and Ted Deutch (D., Fla.) have introduced new legislation that would boost U.S. funding and coordination with Israel on its Iron Dome and Arrow missile defense system.
The bill would authorize President Barack Obama to approve "assistance to Israel for the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system, as well as authorization for cooperation on the development, maintenance, enhancement, and sustainment of the David’s Sling, Arrow, and Arrow 3 anti-missile defense systems," according to Roskam’s office.
Close cooperation on these programs is vital to combat the Iranian threat, Roskam said.
"A robust missile defense apparatus is a strategic imperative for not only Israel, but the United States as well," Roskam said. "Just this month a Pentagon report estimated that Iran could test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States by 2015."
"We must stay one step ahead of the emerging threats posed by Iran, North Korea and others by working with our allies to develop cutting-edge defense systems," Roskam said. "Our partnership with Israel in the realm of missile defense technologies is vital to this goal."
The bipartisan bill, which has attracted 22 cosponsors since it was introduced on July 17, states that Israel is under a constant threat from rocket attacks.
"The State of Israel remains under grave threat and frequent attack from missiles, rockets, and mortar shells fired at Israeli civilian targets by militants from Foreign Terrorist Organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad on its southern border and by Hezbollah on its northern border, which have killed, wounded, or inflicted psychological trauma on countless Israelis," the bill says. "Additionally, Israel faces a potential ballistic missile threat from Iran and Syria."
Already, Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted 85 percent of the short-range missiles that have been fired by terrorists since 2011, according to the bill.
Israel and the United States are also working on more advanced missile defense systems, such as the Arrow Weapon System, which is capable of destroying medium-range ballistic missiles.
The Arrow system is being jointly co-developed by Israel Aircraft Industries and The Boeing Company.
The two companies are also working in tandem to build an advanced system known as Arrow 3, which will be able to be deployed above Earth’s atmosphere.
Additionally, the David’s Sling Weapon System is currently being developed by Israel’s Rafael company and U.S. defense company Raytheon.
David’s Sling will be able to "intercept short and medium-range ballistic missiles, long-range rockets, and cruise missiles," according to Roskam’s office.
The legislation makes clear that all of these programs will benefit the United States once they are completed.
"Together, these programs will help Israel and the United States defend against short, medium, and long-range rockets, missiles, and other projectiles," Roskam’s office said in a statement.
"The United States can help to advance its own vital national security interests and the cause of Middle Eastern peace and stability by supporting Israel's ability to defend itself against missiles, rockets, and other threats," according to the bill, which also reiterates Congress’ commitment bolstering Israel’s military.
"The United States remains committed to Israel's qualitative military edge, including its advantage over non-state actors such as Hezbollah and Hamas, which boast increasingly sophisticated and powerful weapons as a result of support from Iran, Syria, and other state actors," the bill states.
Roskam referred to the joint missile programs as a "win-win" in a statement.
Roskam and other House lawmakers introduced a bill in March to increase U.S. assistance for Iron Dome.
Iranian military leaders announced earlier this month that it would soon unveil new missiles and drones, including "light, semi-heavy and heavy weapons, military tools and equipment," according to the state-run Fars News Agency.
Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon are believed to be stockpiling advanced missiles that will likely put these missiles systems to the test in the near future.