WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced $6.4 million for the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program in the Air Force's fiscal year 2016 budget request, which still must be approved by Congress. For the past three years, the Air Force has attempted to terminate ORS, and this budget request marks the first time it has reinvested in the program.
Last October, Senator Heinrich wrote a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James requesting ORS funding in the budget so the office can carry out its mission and reinforce the Department of Defense's commitment to an entity dedicated to responsive space capabilities.
"For years now, I have fought to preserve our nation's responsive space capabilities by restoring the Operationally Responsive Space program's budget following efforts to eliminate it. I am pleased that for the first time in three years, the Air Force has embraced ORS and the important mission it provides for our national security by funding it in the president's budget," said Sen. Heinrich. "I will continue working with the Air Force to ensure that innovative ideas and cost cutting programs like ORS are prioritized. I applaud Secretary James, General Hyten, and Under Secretary Fanning for their leadership on this important effort."
Space is increasingly contested with more than 60 nations operating satellites worldwide and China demonstrating anti-satellite technologies that could disable or disrupt U.S. satellite operations. According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission's 2014 Report to Congress, "China in 2014 continued to pursue a broad counterspace program to challenge U.S. information superiority in a conflict and disrupt or destroy U.S. satellites if necessary... China likely will be able to hold at risk U.S. national security satellites in every orbital regime in the next five to ten years."
Senator Heinrich has been a staunch advocate for maintaining the ORS program and funding new missions to ensure a more responsive space architecture. Last December, he successfully secured a provision in the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act to authorize $20 million to continue the ORS program at KAFB in Albuquerque. Senator Heinrich consistently rejected the Air Force's efforts to terminate the program. In 2013, Senator Heinrich placed a hold on then-Air Force Secretary nominee Deborah Lee James. Prior to her leadership, the Air Force repeatedly requested to terminate ORS despite congressional mandate to continue the program. Senator Heinrich lifted his hold upon receiving confirmation from Air Force that the ORS program would continue per public law.