This annual must-pass bill authorizes defense spending. It is a multi-faceted bill with provisions on all aspects of the Defense Department’s activities. Relevant provisions deal with military aid for Israel, a ballistic missile defense system for U.S. allies in the Middle East, congressional oversight on the Obama administration’s Iran policy, and funding for the training and equipment of certain Syrian rebel groups.
The summary below reflects the draft that passed in the House of 5/24.
Military Aid for Israel
Reaffirming the 9/2016 U.S.-Israeli Memorandum of Understanding on joint missile defense programs, the bill specifically authorized up to $500 m. for co-development and co-production activities, including at least $50 m. for the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense (SRBMD) program and $70 m. for the Iron Dome. The House Appropriations Comm. report specifically recommended an additional $68 m. for the acquisition of Iron Dome hardware to be used by the U.S. army.
The secretary of defense would be authorized to establish a joint U.S.-Israeli program to carry out research, development, test, and evaluation of capabilities for countering unmanned aerial systems, or drones.
Iran Policy Oversight
The secretaries of defense and state were authorized to develop and implement a strategy to counter “the destabilizing activities of Iran,” with specific sections addressing countries where Iran and its proxies operate. They would be required to include a description of a new cooperative framework that would facilitate joint efforts with U.S. allies across a variety of areas, such as intelligence, missile defense, and data-sharing. Furthermore, the bill would establish a new policy dictating that the U.S. should provide support for any country in the Middle East willing to assist U.S. efforts to counter Iran.
In terms of oversight, the secretaries would be required to report to Congress on Iran’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. The president would be required to report to Congress on any cooperation between Iran and Russia, specifically as it may pertain to the conflict in Syria, and separately on Iranian support for “proxy forces” in Syria and Lebanon, including Hezbollah. Finally, the secretary of state would be required to report on the amount of money spent by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps in support of Hezbollah, Hamas, “proxy forces” in Syria and Iraq, and any other entity he deems relevant.