This annual must-pass bill authorizes defense spending. It is a multi-faceted piece of legislation 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, and congressional oversight on the Obama administration’s Iran policy.
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 $300 m. for co-development and co-production activities, including $50 m. for the David’s Sling Weapon System, $80 m. for the Arrow 3 Upper Tier Interceptor Program, and $70 m. for the Iron Dome. All of the abovementioned authorizations were made subject to existing bilateral agreements on co-production of goods in the United States. Separately, the bill authorized up to $50 m. to fund joint U.S.-Israeli anti-tunneling programs.
The bill also extended Israeli access to war reserves stockpiles in Israel through 9/30/23 and authorized an additional $1 b. in U.S. weapons to be added to those stockpiles.
For the first time, the secretary of defense was authorized to establish a joint U.S.-Israeli program to carry out research, development, test, and evaluation of capabilities for countering unmanned aerial systems, also known as drones. Congress has previously authorized similar programs on joint missile defense and anti-tunneling initiatives.
The president was authorized to conduct a joint assessment with Israel on the quantity and type of precision-guided munitions that would be necessary for Israel to combat Hezbollah or Hamas in the event of a sustained confrontation with either group, including an estimate on the cost of such munitions.
Iran Policy Oversight
The secretaries of defense and state were authorized to develop a strategy to counter “the destabilizing activities of Iran,” with specific sections addressing countries where Iran and its proxies operate. They would also 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.