The former head of the US Transportation Security Administration said that he expected American-Israeli defense cooperation to expand in coming years, as the two countries collaborate on military projects and band together against an increasingly unpredictable Middle East.
Peter Neffenger, a retired vice commandant of the US Coast Guard and head of the TSA during Barack Obama’s last 18 months as president, visited Israel this month as part of a delegation of 10 former high-ranking US military officials with a group known as the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).
“It really is impressive to see how close the relationship is, particularly among the military services… but what impressed all of us was the need for that relationship to stay strong and grow into the future,” he told The Times of Israel on Monday, a day before the delegation was due to fly back to the US.
“The relations between the two countries are as strong as they’ve been — and they’re growing stronger,” he said. “I actually see opportunity for more of that in the coming months.”
Neffenger said the security cooperation will likely grow as the US relies on Israel’s intelligence and geographic presence in order to track developments in the region. “It’s a very different Middle East than it used to be,” he said.
The development and testing of advanced military equipment, like the F-35 stealth fighter jet, would also keep the two countries close, he added.
Neffenger noted that while he and the other participants are no longer active service members, they still closely follow US policies. The retired admiral, for instance, started working as a senior fellow in the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank earlier this year.