February 10, 2016 / 3:18 AM / 2 years ago

Pentagon budget requests $146 million in support for Israel defense

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem January 31, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Defense Department’s fiscal year 2017 budget requests $145.8 million in support for Israel, including Iron Dome and other cooperative defense programs, according to Pentagon documents released Tuesday.

The Iron Dome system is designed to defeat short-range missiles and rockets. The United States will also continue to help fund David’s Sling, a medium-range missile interceptor, set to be deployed this year, as well as the Arrow ballistic missile interceptor.

The systems are meant to form a multi-level shield that the Israelis are developing with Washington’s help as a bulwark against Iran and its allies on the Israeli border.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s fiscal 2017 budget request included $103.8 million for Israeli cooperative programs, down from $267.6 million in fiscal 2016, plus $42 million for Iron Dome, down from $55 million in fiscal 2016.

The budget forecast total spending on Israeli cooperative programs of $540 million over the next five years, with no additional funding for Iron Dome envisioned after $42 million in fiscal 2017.

Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, told reporters the agency was working with Israel under a co-production agreement signed for the Iron Dome system, with a “not insignificant” workshare going to U.S. firms. He declined to give the specific percentage share.

Syring said the United States and Israel were working on a second co-production agreement for the David’s Sling program, although he declined to give a timeframe for reaching a deal.

He said a test of the David’s Sling system late last year exceeded expectations.

Raytheon Co is working with Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd on the Iron Dome and David’s Sling programs.

Syring said Israel had not signaled any plans to request additional funds for missile defense programs, as it did last year, after the agency sent its budget request to Congress.

He said any decision on funding would be up to Congress, which must approve the budget.

Robert Scher, assistant defense secretary for strategy, plans and capabilities, told Congress last year that the U.S. government had provided more than $3 billion to Israel for work on David’s Sling and other missile defense programs since 2001.

Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker

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