The U.S. House and Senate approved $225 million in emergency spending for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, sending a message of support for Israel as fighting surged in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
House and Senate passage yesterday cleared the measure for President Barack Obama’s signature, as lawmakers worked to finish legislative business before leaving Washington for a five-week recess. The Senate passed the measure by voice vote, and the House approved it 395 to 8.
Iron Dome, built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., is designed to intercept and destroy rockets capable of flying as far as 70 kilometers (43.5 miles.)
The added funding is needed immediately because Israel is “running out of Iron Dome missiles to protect themselves,” Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on the Senate floor. Lawmakers can’t say “we left Israel in a lurch,” he said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had asked Senate leaders on Israel’s behalf to approve the funding for the U.S.-funded Iron Dome. It would be used “to accelerate production of Iron Dome components in Israel to maintain adequate stockpiles,” Hagel said in a July 22 letter.
While lawmakers have pressed for U.S. companies to get a share of Iron Dome funding, they wouldn’t benefit from the $225 million, according to Hagel.
An agreement with Israel calls for more than half the funds the Pentagon provides for Iron Dome to be spent in the U.S. Israel estimates that it would take two to three years to reach that full co-production capacity in the U.S., “which would not address Israel’s current shortfall,” Hagel wrote.
Raytheon Co., based in Waltham, Massachusetts, is under contract with Haifa-based Rafael to find suitable U.S. suppliers.
The fiscal 2014 omnibus appropriations law, Public Law 113-76, provided $235.3 million for Iron Dome procurement this year. The money approved yesterday would be in addition to that funding and the $351 million that’s already under discussion for Iron Dome in fiscal 2015. For the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, the Pentagon had requested $176 million.
Speaking with reporters after the vote, Graham said congressional approval of the Iron Dome money sends a broader message to Israel.
“Not only are we going to give you more missiles, we’re going to be a better friend,” he said.
The bill is H. J. Res. 76.