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Armed Services approves US-Israeli 'anti-tunneling' effort

Armed Services approves US-Israeli 'anti-tunneling' effort
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The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday approved an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would allow the U.S and Israel to develop an “anti-tunneling system” to protect against terrorist attacks.

The provision — offered by Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Gwen Graham (D-Fla.) — was tacked onto the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee's portion of the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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Speaking for the amendment, Lamborn said tunneling was a “huge issue” in Israel and that around 30 underground passageways were found between Israel and the Gaza Strip after last summer’s conflict.

He noted there is similar problem along the southern U.S. border, where tunnels are used for “smuggling and other purposes.”

Lamborn said that other countries, besides the U.S. and Israel, could join the effort.

Graham drew a parallel between the initiative and the Iron Dome missile defense system that has helped prevent rocket attacks.

The bipartisan amendment, which came with no price tag, was approved by voice vote.

The committee shot down an amendment by Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.) that would have inserted a “sense of Congress” into the panel’s final NDAA report directing the Air Force to use $10 million allocated in fiscal 2015 to finish the Counter-electronic High-power Microwave Advanced Missile Project. 

Full committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) spoke out against the proposal, arguing that the panel does not insert such provisions into its final report and that the language “retroactively” reinterprets text written by appropriators, something “they don’t take very kindly to.”

“This is one of those instances where the chair has to be the heavy,” Thornberry said.

The committee approved the emerging threats portion of the NDAA by voice vote.