Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense

Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense
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A bipartisan group of senators led by Sens. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkAdvocates push for EpiPens on flights after college student's mid-flight allergic reaction Funding the fight against polio Ex-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby MORE (R-Ill.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Sanders unveils plan to double union membership in first term The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden expands lead in new national poll MORE (D-N.Y.) is urging that an additional $320 million for Israeli missile defense be added to a defense bill.  

"Amid growing rocket and missile threats in the Middle East, it is prudent for the United States and Israel to advance and accelerate bilateral cooperation on missile defense technologies," the senators said in a letter to the Armed Services Committee chairmen that was first obtained by The Hill. 

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So far, 19 Republicans and 17 Democrats have signed on to the letter, including Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Polls flash warning signs for Trump Polls suggest Sanders may be underestimated 10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall MORE's vice presidential pick, Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineA lesson of the Trump, Tlaib, Omar, Netanyahu affair Warren's pledge to avoid first nuclear strike sparks intense pushback Almost three-quarters say minimum age to buy tobacco should be 21: Gallup MORE (D-Va.). 

The proposed increase, of $319.9 million, would go toward three U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs and more purchases of Iron Dome systems, which would include co-production of the systems in the U.S. 

The senators are urging their colleagues, who are working with House members on a final version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), to include the funding levels authorized by the House's bill, rather than the Senate's. 

The House bill authorizes $600.7 million for research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) and procurement of the systems, while the Senate bill authorizes $280.8 million.  

The difference is that the House bill fully authorizes funding requests by Israel on RDT&E, procurement of the Iron Dome system, and the Arrow weapon, upper tier, or Arrow 3, and David's Sling programs, while the Senate bill would authorize $29.9 million less for RDT&E and $290 million less for procurement. 

Senators and House members are working to mesh the two authorization bills together and produce a conference report to send to both chambers for approval before sending it to the president's desk. 

"We believe that fully funding U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs at $601 million, as funded by the House-passed NDAA, is a level that will allow Israel to fully meet its national security requirements," the senators wrote to conference chairmen Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Anti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid McCain's family, McCain Institute to promote #ActsOfCivility in marking first anniversary of senator's death MORE (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas). 

"We urge you to work in a bicameral, bipartisan manner to find a satisfactory solution to fully fund these U.S.-Israel programs," they wrote. 

The Iron Dome system is designed to intercept short-range rockets between two and 45 miles that fired at population centers from the Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon or the Sinai Peninsula. 

The Arrow weapon system is an anti-ballistic missile program aimed at defending against imminent and emerging missile threats while also providing data and technology that advances U.S. missile defense programs, the letter said. 

David's Sling, which complements Iron Dome and Arrow, provides enhanced defense from large-caliber artillery rockets, tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. 

"These joint U.S.-Israel programs continue to yield critical defense capabilities that protect Israel from missile and rocket threats from as near as the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to as far as Iran," the senators wrote. 

"As you know, investments over the years in U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs have saved the lives of countless civilians from indiscriminate rocket and missile attacks," they wrote. 

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