WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today led a bipartisan group of 30 senators in calling for full funding of U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs in the Defense Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017.
In a letter to Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Ranking Member Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the senators urged full funding for all three cooperative missile defense programs (Arrow System Improvement Program, Arrow III upper tier interceptor, and David’s Sling), as well as for the successful Iron Dome system, amid growing rocket and missile threats to Israel.
“Israel faces a range of threats in a dangerous and unstable region and providing this assistance for programs including Iron Dome and David’s Sling will ensure that our friend and ally can protect its citizens,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am glad so many of my colleagues joined Senator Kirk and me in supporting full funding for these joint programs that benefit not only Israeli security but U.S. national security as well through our co-production and technology development.”
“It is in America’s national security interest to empower Israel, a democracy and our closest ally in the Middle East, to defend itself against rocket and missile threats from Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists as well as Iran’s terror-sponsoring regime,” Senator Kirk said. “U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation has an indisputable record of saving countless innocent lives from indiscriminate missile and rocket attacks.”
“These joint U.S.-Israel programs continue to yield critical defense capabilities that protect Israel from missile and rocket threats from as near as the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to as far as Iran,” the 30 senators wrote. “As you know, investments over the years in U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs have saved the lives of countless civilians from indiscriminate rocket and missile attacks.”
Senators Kirk and Gillibrand have long led support for U.S.-Israeli cooperative missile defense programs that advance U.S. national security interests by supporting Israel’s ability to defend itself against missile and rocket attacks. Last year, at the senators’ urging, the Senate Appropriations Committee provided more than $487 million in funding, including $55 million for the successful Iron Dome system.
The Kirk-Gillibrand letter to urge full funding for U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation was also signed by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), M. Michael Rounds (R-S.D.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), David Vitter (R-La.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), David A. Perdue (R-Ga.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Roger F. Wicker (R-Miss.), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
The letter is available here, and the full text is below.
Dear Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairman Durbin:
As you begin your work on the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Appropriations bill, we write in strong support of fully funding U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs. These joint U.S.-Israel programs continue to yield critical defense capabilities that protect Israel from missile and rocket threats from as near as the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to as far as Iran. As you know, investments over the years in U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs have saved the lives of countless civilians from indiscriminate rocket and missile attacks.
The Fiscal Year 2017 President’s Budget request includes funds for all three cooperative missile defense programs and a separate request for Iron Dome. As the United States and Israel work to conclude negotiations on a new Memorandum of Understanding regarding military aid, we respectfully request that you fund U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs to a level that will allow Israel to fully meet its national security requirements. In recent years, Congress has appropriated funding for these programs that met our ally’s needs, even when that exceeded the President’s Budget request. We ask that you again consider funding these programs at a level that will meet Israel’s national security needs.
The three cooperative missile defense programs and the Iron Dome system meet core Israeli national security requirements. Iron Dome is designed to intercept very short-range rocket threats between two and forty-five miles, primarily fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon, or the Sinai Peninsula. Iron Dome’s selective targeting system and radar are designed to fire its Tamir interceptors only at incoming projectiles that pose threats to population centers. The Arrow Weapon System empowers Israel to defend against imminent and emerging missile threats, and also yields data and technology that advances U.S. ballistic missile defense programs. David’s Sling, designed to complement Iron Dome and the Arrow Weapon System, provides enhanced defense against threats from large caliber artillery rockets, tactical ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles.
Amid growing rocket and missile threats in the Middle East, it is prudent for the United States and Israel to advance and accelerate bilateral cooperation on missile defense technologies. We therefore urge you to fully fund U.S.-Israeli joint missile defense programs so that Israel can continue to develop and improve the three cooperative missile defense programs, as well as to purchase sufficient Iron Dome systems, including co-production of these systems in the United States, for protecting Israel’s population against growing missile and rocket threats in the region.
United States Senator
United States Senator