The Pentagon will request additional funds from Congress to buy missile-defense systems for Israel, the U.S. Defense Department’s spokesman said.
The funds are on top of $205 million requested last year to buy more of the Iron Dome systems designed to intercept short- range rockets and mortar rounds fired at Israeli cities, spokesman George Little said today in an e-mailed statement.
“During the rocket attacks earlier this month, the Iron Dome system played a critical role in Israel’s security,” Little said. “When nearly 300 rockets and mortars were fired at southern Israel, Iron Dome intercepted over 80 percent of the targets it engaged, saving many civilian lives.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has faced questions from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers about the Pentagon’s funding commitments. Members of Congress have asked why the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget seeks $99.8 million for Israel’s missile defenses, a reduction from the $106 million the administration requested last year and the $216 million that Congress provided.
Republican Representatives Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote Obama Feb. 14 that they were “deeply concerned” about the administration’s request “at a time of rising threats to our strongest ally.”
McKeon said in a statement today that he was “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.”
The Iron Dome is made by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., which says on its website that it was started as part of Israel’s Ministry of Defense and incorporated in 2002.
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