WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force plans to request funding for its Operationally Responsive Space office for next year and beyond, providing a measure of budgetary stability for the rapid-response office for the first time in several years.

During a Jan. 27 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said she was “ a big believer in ORS” and that the Air Force would fund the program “going forward.”

“You will see we have funded ORS throughout,” she said, referring to the five-year spending forecast the Air Force will include when it submits its 2017 budget request to Congress next month.

That’s a significant change from a year ago, when the Air Force requested about $6.5 million for ORS for 2016  but budgeted nothing for the office for 2017, 2018, 2019, or 2020.  Two years ago, the Air Force tried to shutter the ORS office by leaving it out of its 2015 budget request entirely.

Congress rebuffed that attempt and came to the program’s aid  again by including $18.5 million — roughly triple what the Air Force had requested for ORS — in the 2016 omnibus appropriations bill  enacted in December.

James did not say how much money the Air Force intends to request for the ORS office for 2017 and beyond.

The ORS office, which is based at New Mexico’s Kirtland Air Force Base, specializes in rapidly developing space capabilities to plug gaps or address emerging military needs. It is about to begin technology demonstrations for a new weather satellite and is working on a follow on to the Air Force’s Space Based Space Surveillance Block 10 satellite, which keeps tabs on the geosynchronous-orbit.

The White House is expected to release its 2017 budget request Feb. 9.

Mike Gruss covers military space issues, including the U.S. Air Force and Missile Defense Agency, for SpaceNews. He is a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.