House cyber subcommittee calls for GAO report on Air Force's Link 16 modernization delay

By Shelley K. Mesch / June 7, 2022 at 11:40 AM

The House Armed Services cyber subcommittee is calling for a Government Accountability Office review of the Air Force's modernization efforts for Link 16.

The subcommittee on cyber, innovative technologies and information systems’ draft mark of the fiscal year 2023 defense policy bill, released Tuesday morning, would direct officials to identify:

  • the status of the modernization
  • what challenges are associated with modernization
  • potential ways to accelerate the timeline
  • what contributed to the current timeline and
  • how the Air Force’s modernization efforts compare to other services’.

The Air Force’s efforts to modernize cryptography for Link 16, the NATO-standard datalink, has fallen behind its goals, said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), who chairs the subcommittee, at a full committee meeting in April.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said at the time that he became aware of the problem “a few months ago” and began funneling resources to the modernization effort.

“As we’ve gone through the last 20 years of being focused on counterterrorism, counterinsurgency campaigns where there wasn’t a sophisticated threat to our datalinks, that’s been neglected, quite frankly,” Kendall told committee members in April.

Kendall told committee members that he had other concerns with Link 16 that he wouldn’t discuss in open session.

The subcommittee will meet Wednesday at 10 a.m. to discuss the draft language.

Elsewhere in the draft mark, the subcommittee commends the Air Force for its software factories and their role in modernizing the service.

“The committee notes that the Air Force’s 16 software factories are in geographically diverse locations, which allows them unique access to Department of Defense installations and private sector and university innovators,” the mark reads. “Moreover, this enables the Air Force to leverage a diverse group of science, technology, engineering and mathematics talent.”

The mark would call on Kendall to provide a briefing to the committee by Jan. 1 on a plan for the structure of the software factories.