The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a $576 billion U.S. defense spending bill, including $635.7 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense programs, defying the Obama administration’s concerns and threat to veto the bill.
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The fiscal 2017 defense appropriations bill, passed by a 282-138 majority, includes $268.7 million in research and development funding for U.S.-Israel cooperative missile and rocket defense programs; $25 million in research and development funding for U.S.-Israel directed energy activities, such as laser technologies, to combat missiles and rockets; $72 million for procurement of the Iron Dome rocket defense system; $150 million for procurement of the David’s Sling missile defense system; and $120 million for procurement of the Arrow-3 missile defense system.
In addition, the House included $42.7 million for U.S.-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation to continue developing technologies for dealing with the challenge of locating, mapping and destroying terrorist tunnel networks from Gaza.
The White House announced on Tuesday its objection to increase funding for Israel’s missile defense program by $445 million. In a “Statement of Administration Policy” released by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, the administration said it “opposes the addition of $455 million above the FY 2017 Budget request for Israeli missile defense procurement and cooperative development programs.”
U.S. State Department John Kirby defended the administration’s opposition to the funding increase on Wednesday, calling it ”the largest such non-emergency increase ever.” Kirby added that the increase “would consume a growing share of a shrinking U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s budget.”
The administration also indicated that it is prepared to incorporate additional missile defense funds in the new long-term MOU agreement. ”We are prepared to make an unprecedented multi-year missile defense commitment as part of a new memorandum of understanding with Israel on military assistance,” an administration official was quoted as saying by Reuters.
In a statement released following the vote, AIPAC commended the GOP-controlled House “for significantly bolstering its support of U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation,” which will “help Israel defend its citizens against rocket and missile threats, and contribute to America’s missile defense programs.”
“As Israel faces dramatically rising security challenges, AIPAC urges inclusion of these vital funds in the final versions of the Fiscal Year 2017 defense authorization and appropriations bills,” AIPAC added.