defense details

Lawmakers come out in force behind funding for U.S.-Israel cooperative defense programs

Appropriations requests submitted by lawmakers in recent weeks highlight continued broad-based support for defensive aid to Israel

JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

An Israeli soldier takes part in an underground combat training session using virtual reality (VR) technology, at an army base in Petah Tikva, northeast of Tel Aviv, on August 20, 2019.

Lawmakers from both parties and both chambers of Congress have come out in force in recent weeks to express support for continued funding for a range of cooperative U.S.-Israel defensive programs as part of the 2024 appropriations cycle.

A series of letters, which express support for cooperative counter-drone, counter-tunneling and missile-defense programs, highlight the continued robust support that these programs and the U.S.-Israel relationship broadly maintain in Congress. The funding itself is approved annually with little fanfare.

The four letters, sent between late March and mid-April, were first shared last week by AIPAC on the organization’s social media accounts. A fifth letter, from 41 senators supporting missile-defense funding, was first published by Jewish Insider last week.

The letter from House members on missile-defense funding affirms support for the $500 million in missile-defense systems, including Iron Dome, Arrow and David’s Sling, scheduled to be provided annually under the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding.

The letter highlights that the funding is “essential to the safety and security of Israel” and that Iran and its proxies are developing increasingly advanced aerial attack capabilities, and also emphasizes that the defense systems help protect U.S. forces and installations from other threats, including Russia and North Korea.

“As we see our enemies more emboldened and their capabilities growing, joint U.S.-Israel security cooperation is needed now more than ever,” the letter reads. 

It also acknowledges GOP efforts to pursue sweeping budget cuts: “During these challenging budgetary times we must prioritize federal funding for programs where federal involvement can have the greatest impact on the safety and security of the American people, our troops, and our allies. These highly advanced missile defense systems have consistently been a key factor in Israel’s self-defense and further technological and operational advancements will be crucial moving forward.”

Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY), Mike Waltz (R-FL), Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Don Bacon (R-NE) led the letter, joined by 166 other lawmakers.

One of the counter-drone funding letters, led by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Ted Budd (R-NC), urges Senate appropriators to approve $40 million for counter-drone funding in the 2024 Defense Appropriations Bill.

“At a time when our adversaries are growing dangerously more emboldened and capable, we strongly believe that enhancing U.S.-Israel counter [unmanned aerial systems] technology is a strategic imperative,” the letter reads.

The letter was co-signed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Rick Scott (R-FL), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), J.D. Vance (R-OH), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ).

A nearly identical letter in the House, led by Reps. Pat Ryan (D-NY) and Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), makes the same funding-level request, with 63 other co-signers.

Another House letter, led by Reps. Schneider, Kathy Manning (D-NC), August Pfluger (R-TX) and Doug Lamborn (R-CO), urges support for $47.5 million for counter-tunneling projects, the same amount included in last year’s bill.

The letter notes that the technology has been used by Israel to identify tunnels dug by terrorists from Gaza and Lebanon, as well as been deployed by the U.S. around the globe “and has saved lives, prevented conflict escalation and helped our allies.”

Fifty-six other lawmakers joined this letter.

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