Source The Hill
Pentagon presses Congress for more Iron Dome systems
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is pushing for congressional funding to ship more Iron Dome missile defense systems to Israel.
“The Department of Defense has been in conversations with … Israel about U.S. support for the acquisition of additional Iron Dome systems and intends to request an appropriate level of funding from Congress to support such acquisitions based on Israeli requirements and production capacity,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement released Tuesday.
DOD had set aside more than $200 million to help Israel purchase and field the Iron Dome system in fiscal 2012. Israel already has three Iron Dome systems deployed in the country.
They have been key in deterring counter short-range rocket and mortar attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip, according to Little.
The system “has played a critical role in Israel’s security,” successfully intercepting 80 percent of the 300 rockets and mortars fired into southern Israel earlier this month, Little said.
The Pentagon’s vote of confidence has spurred on advocates on Capitol Hill, who are pressing for additional sales of the weapons system.
“I am pleased that the President now acknowledges the need to increase funding to counter a deadly threat, and I look forward to working together to identify the additional resources necessary to help defend our Israeli friends,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a Tuesday statement.
Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), a member of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, said he will push for more Iron Dome funding, noting the weapon has been “remarkably successful in saving lives and preventing all-out war.”
“Iron Dome helps give Israel the ability to protect its civilians while giving its leaders the strategic space and time to take the appropriate action to root out terrorists and carefully plan their next steps,” Rothmansaid in a statement issued Tuesday.
“Iron Dome is a game changer,” said Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.). “The threats Israel faces from incoming, indiscriminate terrorist rocket attacks are countered by this cutting edge anti-missile system. Iron Dome is fundamentally shifting political, diplomatic and military realities on the ground.”
Berman, a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has pushed a number of pro-Israeli measures, including an extension of an Israeli loan guarantee program and further sanctions against Iran, along with more funding for Iron Dome systems.
Most recently, he introduced a bill to allow additional sales of the Iron Dome system to Israel. Co-sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the “Iron Dome Support Act” has garnered 21 additional co-sponsors since its introduction on March 21.