What’s $348 million between friends? That’s how much Israel would like Congress to add to the president’s 2015 budget request for aid to assorted Israeli missile defense programs, according to documents provided to Breaking Defense by Rep. Doug Lamborn, co-chairman of both the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus and the Missile Defense Caucus.
“I have communicated with officials from Israeli missile defense forces,” Lamborn said today at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, asking permission to enter the documents into the official record. “They say that Israel would much better able to meet its security needs if that part of the Obama budget were increased by $350 million.” (He’s rounding up slightly).
“I’d like to have more money in my budget too,” replied Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a rare moment of directness. (The notoriously vague Hagel got so non-specific in his answers that, at one point, HASC’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith, interrupted the Secretary and asked Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey, “General, why don’t you take a crack?”)
“I probably speak as much with the defense minster of Israel, Gen. [Moshe] Yaalon, as [with] any one defense minister,” Hagel said. “The commitments we’ve made to the missile defense systems in Israel remain very clear. They’re in the budget.”
The added funding would more than double the $273 million the administration has requested for 2015. There is a precedent for such increases: Last year, Congress added $190 million for Israeli missile defenses to the Obama budget. But Lamborn says the Jewish state needs 83 percent more than that for 2015.
Apparently, the Israelis have learned the old Pentagon trick of presenting Congress with “unfunded requirements” not in the president’s budget — complete with pointed mentions of specific contractors and states that would benefit from a plus-up.
A crucial caveat: While Lamborn said he received the documents from the Israel Missile Defense Organization, the papers his staff provided do not bear the logo of any organization or the signature of any individual, Israeli or otherwise. We’re trying to confirm their authenticity with the Israeli embassy and will update this story when we get word. [Update: It turns out the Israeli Foreign Ministry is on strike, so the Embassy could only advise us to call the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv tomorrow.]
At this point, we can’t say whether these documents represent an official Israeli government position or a strategic leak by some faction of the Israeli defense establishment.
Whatever their exact origin and official status, however, under the heading of “requested action,” the documents ask for
- “a Plus Up of $22.1 M[illion] for Arrow-3 Upper Tier Interceptor Program,” an anti-ballistic missile system intended to counter future Iranian threats that is being co-developed by Boeing and Israeli Aerospace Industries — and “Other subcontractors include numerous US companies located over 25 states,” the Israeli memo helpfully adds;
- “$45.5 M for the acceleration of the Arrow System Improvement Program,” an upgrade to existing versions of the Arrow;
- $105.4 million for David’s Sling, aka “Stunner,” to shoot down lower-altitude missiles, which is a Raytheon-Rafael joint effort — although “Numerous US companies were selected as subcontractors like: ATK [ATK Tech Aliant] (WV), NG [presumably Northrop Grumman] (CA), SDC [probably San Diego Composites] (CA), PKI [we're not sure about this one] (MA), etc.”; and
- “$175 million for the procurement of ‘Iron Dome’ interceptors,” the much-touted system already in service and shooting down relatively crude Hamas rockets.
That would almost exactly double the president’s 2015 request for Iron Dome, which stands at $176 million. The president’s request for Arrow and David’s Sling together, which is a different line item, is $96.8 million, and the Israelis are asking for a total of $173 million more for those programs, which would not quite triple them.