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November 17, 2004

Supercomputing Authorization Heads to President

The House today re-passed HR 4516, the High End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004, which would authorize the creation of a "leadership class" supercomputer at DOE and a "High-end Software Development Center." The House action means that the bill will now head to the President, who is expected to sign it.

We've covered the bill in detail in this space previously. Because it's an authorization, it doesn't actually include any money (just "authorizes" sums to be spent should the money get appropriated). Funding for a "leadership class" computer ($30 million, including $25 million for hardware) is included in the House version of the FY 2005 Energy and Water appropriations bill. However, it's unlikely that bill will make it into the Omnibus Appropriations bill expected to be considered later this week because portions dealing with the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository are deemed too contentious to get resolved before Congress adjourns. This means those agencies funded under the Energy and Water bill may not get an appropriation for FY 05 and may instead operate under a special "continuing resolution." It's not clear at this point what that continuing resolution might look like and whether or not it would contain any funding for the proposed supercomputer.

We'll have a better idea by Thanksgiving when the 108th Congress is expected to adjourn for good.

The House Science Committee issued a press release marking the passage of HR 4516, but it doesn't appear to be on their website yet. You can find it after the jump.

Update: The Chronicle of Higher Ed has more (sub req'd), including a quote from CRA board member Dan Reed:

Daniel A. Reed, vice chancellor for information technology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that the law would increase the political visibility of supercomputing in the United States. Mr. Reed and other supporters of the bill say that the American supercomputing industry has lost its competitiveness and is not making products that can be used for cutting-edge research.

"This will help put it back on the front burner," Mr. Reed said.

Update (11/22): The Energy and Water appropriations bill referred to above did get included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill, and it did include $30 million for DOE's Leadership Class computing effort -- $25 million for hardware, $5 million for software development.

Update (11/30): The President has signed the bill!


Legislation Will Further Strengthen U.S. Competitiveness

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House of Representatives today gave final approval to a bill that will strengthen U.S. competitiveness by revitalizing domestic computing capabilities and supporting the development of the world's fastest supercomputers.

By a voice vote, the House passed H.R. 4516, the Department of Energy High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004, which will further U.S. supercomputing efforts by establishing a research and development (R&D) program within the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop new, record-breaking computing capabilities. The bill also authorizes DOE to establish supercomputer user facilities that will provide U.S. researchers access to some of the world's most advanced computers on a competitive, peer-reviewed basis.

H.R. 4516 was introduced by Energy Subcommittee Chairman Judy Biggert (R-IL), and the House originally passed the bill in July. The Senate then amended the bill to reflect the result of negotiations with the Science Committee and passed it by unanimous consent last month. Today's House passage sends the bill to the President, who is expected to sign it.

Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) said, "Supercomputing capability is increasingly becoming a vital component of the efforts of industry and academia to remain global leaders. By supporting the development of the world's fastest computers, and ensuring U.S. researchers and engineers have access to them, H.R. 4516 will strengthen overall U.S. competitiveness and help ensure a healthy, robust economy. The Science Committee also intends to begin work again early next year on a comprehensive supercomputing bill, like H.R. 4218, the High-Performance Computing Revitalization Act of 2004, which the House passed earlier this year."

"High performance computers are central to maintaining U.S. leadership in many scientific fields," said Chairman Biggert. "With House passage of this bill, American researchers are one step closer to gaining the tools they need to remain the world leader in the development and use of supercomputers. Our nation's scientific enterprise, and our economy, will be stronger for it."

Congressman Lincoln Davis (D-TN), lead Democratic sponsor of H.R. 4516, said, "With today's vote Congress has made a decision to build the fastest and most efficient computers in the world. This sends a strong message of America's commitment towards leading the world in the research and development of supercomputing technology, as well as in the field of science and engineering."

H.R. 4516 was drafted with the input of industry leaders who are breaking new ground in the development of supercomputing hardware and software, and are key players in the effort to advance U.S. supercomputing capabilities. Two U.S. companies, IBM and Silicon Graphics Incorporated (SGI), made world headlines last week when computers they built were officially certified as the fastest in the world. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Blue Gene, which was built by IBM, was certified as the world's fastest computer, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Columbia, built by SGI, was certified as the world's second-fastest.

Commenting on passage of H.R. 4516, IBM Vice President for Technology and Strategy, Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, who testified at a June Science Committee hearing on the nation's supercomputing capabilities, said, "The efforts of Congress to advance high-performance computing (HPC) are critical to innovation in the US. The most important aspect of HPC is that through government, university, industry partnerships, we can build fast, useable, reasonably priced systems in order to advance science and solve problems of importance to our society, from the most sophisticated scientific simulations to cancer diagnosis."

"Supercomputing drives a long food chain," said Bob Bishop, chairman and CEO of SGI. "It begins with research and discovery, ripples through invention and innovation, and finally extends into the economy, public safety and national security at large. H.R. 4516 is clear recognition that to out-compete in the 21st Century, the U.S. will have to out-compute."

Jim Rottsolk, CEO of Cray Corporation, a global supercomputing leader, said, "Passage of the DOE High-End Computing Revitalization Act will help the U.S. regain and maintain the supercomputing primacy that is needed for continued leadership in science and industry, national security and quality of life."

The major change in the final version of the bill is a provision requiring the Secretary of Energy to establish at least one R&D center devoted to the development of software for supercomputing applications.

Posted by PeterHarsha at November 17, 2004 09:43 PM | TrackBack
Posted to Funding