The Dirty Secret of US-Israel Missile Defense Cooperation

We need a way to fund Israel’s missile defenses without undercutting our own.

This weekend, the acting head of Israel’s National Security Council will visit Washington, reportedly to conclude a new multi-year aid package. Replacing an arrangement set to expire in 2018, the deal is expected to include hundreds of millions of dollars for Israeli missile defense efforts. But there is a problem that must be addressed before it undermines this important and valuable component of the countries’ alliance: In recent years, increased funding for Israeli missile defense has begun to directly compete with funding for U.S. missile defense efforts.

A bit of budgetary background: Aid for Israeli missile defense are drawn from the budget of the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA), even though it is more akin to foreign assistance. And when appropriators divert more money to the Israeli budget line, they almost invariably fail to fully compensate MDA. U.S. programs are then cut to pay the bill.

It’s the dirty secret of missile defense cooperation. Everybody knows this competition exists, but nobody wants to say so. And while MDA’s topline has been steadily falling for years, Israel’s numbers keep rising. Since 2009 alone, Congress has quadrupled U.S. financial contributions to Israeli missile defense. Between 2011-15, Israel received an average of 6.1 percent of MDA’s budget. In 2014, the figure was $729 million, or 9.1 percent.

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