The U.S.-Israel joint military exercise Juniper Cobra, May 15, 2014. (Matty Stern/US Embassy/FLASH90)

Senators call on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to partner with Israel to advance American defense technology.

Four senators from the Armed Services Committee sent a letter last week to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, calling on him to convene a U.S.-Israel Operations-Technology Working Group (OTWG) that is specified in the annual defense bill, Defense News reported last week.

Based on the growing military technology challenge from America’s adversaries, the working group is necessary to ensure that U.S. troops have the most advanced capabilities and can outmatch any potential enemy, the senators told Austin.

Defense News reported that Austin already appears to recognize the need, commenting during his Senate confirmation process that the Pentagon needs to be “more agile and more responsive” in providing cutting-edge technology to deployed forces.

The bipartisan group of senators, which includes two Republicans (Tom Cotton and Mike Rounds) and two Democrats (Gary Peters and Jacky Rosen), pointed out to Austin that China and Russia are surging ahead technologically and America has to “cooperate more systematically and effectively with tech-savvy democratic allies” in order to get “necessary capabilities to our troops quickly.”

“Israel punches well above its weight in many of the technologies vital to U.S. military modernization efforts,” the senators wrote. “Moreover, Jerusalem consistently demonstrates an agility in fielding vital military capabilities that can benefit our warfighters.”

“Consider that the Pentagon did not acquire until 2019 active protection systems for U.S. tanks that had been operational in Israel since 2011. Consequently, U.S. soldiers operated for years around the world lacking the cutting-edge protection Washington could have provided against missiles and rockets. That put U.S. soldiers in unnecessary risk,” commented Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“Rather than belatedly trying to address such capability gaps, the U.S. and Israel should work together more systematically up front to prevent the gaps from emerging in the first place,” Bowman said.

All those points should help make the OTWG a slam-dunk with Austin, who is a known friend of Israel.

In January shortly after Austin was sworn, he called Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz to talk about Israel-U.S. military cooperation.

“Great speaking with Israel’s Minister of Defense Benny Gantz … The U.S. is committed to Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge and to enhancing our close bilateral cooperation,” tweeted Austin, who is a former commander of CENTCOM, the U.S. military’s central command based in the Middle East that now includes Israel.

Also in January the the current commander of CENTCOM, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., was in Israel for a two-day visit with the IDF.

“Military and strategic relations between the U.S.and Israel have, for many years, been a critical component in establishing Israel’s national security and its advantage over its enemies, wherever they are,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Aviv Kochavi told his guest. “This partnership has a key role to play in dealing with our common threats, especially the Iranian threat.”