Another military program, called U.S. War Reserves Stocks for Allies, begun in the 1980s, allows the United States to store arms and equipment on Israeli bases for use in wartime. In the 1990s, the arrangement was expanded to allow Israel to use the weapons, but only with U.S. permission. During the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon, the United States gave permission for Israel to use stored cluster artillery shells to counter rocket attacks. The use drew international complaints because the rockets struck civilian rather than military areas.
The initial limit was $100 million worth of stored missiles, armored vehicles and artillery munitions, but that has increased over time. It reached $800 million in 2010, $1 billion this year and by 2012, it is expected to grow to $1.2 billion.
Since the mid-1990s, the United States and Israel have been co-developing missile defense systems designed to meet threats from short-range rockets as well as longer-range ballistic missiles. All of the systems involved have gained support from Congress, which frequently earmarks additional funding for Israeli weaponry.
For example, the House and the Senate added $129.6 million to the $106.1 million the Obama administration had in the fiscal 2012 budget for these programs. In the 2011 bill, Congress added $205 million for the Iron Dome system, which defends against short-range rockets and mortars. That was on top of $200 million the administration sought for the U.S. contribution to other cooperative missile-defense systems.
Among reductions now being discussed in Israel is a delay in purchasing more Iron Dome systems beyond those to be paid for by the United States’ $205 million. In addition, the Israeli military may freeze its spending on other missile defense systems, the very ones for which Congress approved additional funding this year.
The question for the Obama administration, Congress and, in the end, perhaps the American public, is: Given present economic problems, should the United States supply the money to make up for reductions the Israelis are making in their own defense budget?