WASHINGTON – Congress is set to significantly increase funding for Israeli
missile defense to more than make up for White House cuts to the program,
Capitol Hill sources told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
The 2013 budget
proposal unveiled by US President Barack Obama Monday trims $6 million in
defense spending from the Arrow and David’s Sling programs, which is separate
from the record $3.1 billion in Israeli military assistance called for under the
State Department budget.
The cut to the US-Israel cooperative programs
has provoked criticism from some quarters.
“For an administration that
tried to claim that it’s the best for Israel’s security, cutting critical funds
for missile defense at a time when the threat from Iran has never been greater
is extremely dangerous, worrisome and reckless,” said Matt Brooks, executive
director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
But Democrats on Capitol
Hill defended the reduced missile defense funding as part of the Obama
administration’s effort to rein in overall spending by the Pentagon, whose
budget would be slashed by $487 billion across 10 years under Obama’s
“It has nothing to do with the Israeli missile defense program and
everything to do with curbing the defense budget in every way possible,” said
one aide to a Democratic member on the House defense appropriations
He said Congress would be increasing the missile defense
aid once it reviews the budget and determines its own funding levels. The
administration budget serves as a blueprint, but it is Congress’s version that
is voted on and signed into law.
“Funding for US-Israel missile defense
will continue to rise despite the budget request,” he said.
administration’s request for missile defense monies has dropped somewhat in
recent years – from $121.7m. in 2011 to $106.1m. in 2012 to 2013’s $99.8m. –
during each of those cycles, Congress has consistently increased the final
The aide predicted the 2013 figure would be in the
neighborhood of the record $235.6m. slated for 2012, meaning Congress would be
adding at least $100 million to the current figure.
has waited to see the president’s budget request before seeking additional funds
on Capitol Hill. Another Congressional aide said that if the Israelis once again
asks members for more missile defense funding, “without a doubt they would get
A former Department of Defense official said Obama’s allocation
should be seen as part of the larger process, in which all US missile defense
spending was cut and even Pentagon staples like the aircraft program faced large
“Given the budgeting situation, this also indicates support
[for Israel], though it’s not exactly the same support as last year,” he
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta came before the Senate Armed
Services Committee Tuesday to defend the scope of the cuts, though he didn’t
address missile defense directly.
“You cannot take half a trillion
dollars out of the defense budget and not incur risks,” he acknowledged. “We
believe they are acceptable risks.”
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of
Staff Martin Dempsey, who testified alongside Panetta at the hearing, urged the
Senate to drop consideration of an amendment that would cut off aid to Egypt and
break the country’s military ties because of Cairo’s current detention of
American NGO workers.
“My military judgment is that would be a mistake,”
said Dempsey, who recently met with Egyptian military officials to convince them
to release the American citizens.
“I spent about a day and a half in
conversation with them, encouraging them in the strongest possible terms to
resolve this so that our military-to-military relationship could continue,”
Dempsey reported. “I am convinced that potentially they were underestimating the
impact of this on our relationship. When I left there, there was no doubt that
they understood the seriousness of it.”
Obama’s budget proposal maintains
the 2012 funding levels for Egyptian aid, comprised of $1.3m. in military
assistance and $250m. in economic assistance. In addition, a new $770m. fund for
Arab Spring countries could also possibly include payments to Egypt.
budget would also allocate $370m. in economic assistance and $70m. in law
enforcement training to the Palestinian Authority, though the Fatah and Hamas
just entered into a power-sharing plan. Hamas is a US-designated terrorist
organization and American laws bar transferring money to such
Texas Republican Rep. Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House
foreign operations appropriations subcommittee, said Congress would follow the
same limits on disbursements as laid out this past year when similar issues
“In the FY 2012 appropriations bill we laid out common sense,
bipartisan conditions that prepared for, and anticipated, the unknown,” she told
the Post. “Whether it is the Palestinian Authority or Egypt, this Congress has
been clear that there are limitations on how we spend our foreign
“The President’s budget is a blueprint for what the administration
wants out of the Congress. This is not what will be enacted into law.”