The Pentagon will press Congress for additional money for the Iron Dome missile defense system, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
The announcement from the Pentagon comes as President Barack Obama has faced election-year criticism from Republican presidential candidates and GOP lawmakers that administration support for longtime friend Israel has been inadequate, the report noted.
“Supporting the security of the state of Israel is a top priority of President Obama and Secretary (Leon) Panetta,” AP quoted Pentagon press secretary George Little as having said in a statement.
“The Department of Defense has been in conversations with the government of Israel about U.S. support for the acquisition of additional Iron Dome systems and intends to request an appropriate level of funding from Congress to support such acquisitions based on Israeli requirements and production capacity,” Little added.
The Pentagon’s statement cited the effectiveness of the system, which reportedly intercepted 90 percent of missile attacks on urban centers during the recent escalation in rocket attacks from Gaza towards Israel.
In a special request in the 2011 budget, the Obama administration and Congress agreed on $205 million for the Iron Dome system, AP reported. Obama's budget for next year, according to the report, calls for $3.1 billion in military assistance for Israel, a slight increase over the current level and the most for any foreign country.
The Pentagon statement provided no specific numbers but congressional aides said a possible request would be the purchase of 10 battery systems at a cost of $50 million each.
Congressional Democrats welcomed the Pentagon announcement as a fresh sign of the administration standing with Israel.
“Iron Dome helps give Israel the ability to protect its civilians while giving its leaders the strategic space and time to take the appropriate action to root out terrorists and carefully plan their next steps,” Rep. Steve Rothman, D-N.J., a member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, was quoted by AP as having said.
Rep. Howard Berman of California, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is a co-sponsor of legislation that would authorize the president to provide aid to Israel to buy additional Iron Dome anti-rocket systems if it requests it.
“Iron Dome is a game changer,” Berman told AP. "The threats Israel faces from incoming, indiscriminate terrorist rocket attacks are countered by this cutting edge anti-missile system. Iron Dome is fundamentally shifting political, diplomatic and military realities on the ground, while saving lives of innocent Israelis. Today's statement is a further step in the right direction.”
On Monday, for the first time since entering operational use, the Iron Dome battery was positioned in the greater Tel Aviv area.
According to a report on the Israel Defense website, the position of the battery is for training purposes, to familiarize IDF soldiers stationed in the area with the system, and to adapt the system to the area’s requirements.