House Passes Supercomputer R&D Bills

Lawmakers want to both increase R&D in supercomputer design and make existing systems more available to U.S. researchers.
WASHINGTON--The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation designed to strengthen research and development for high-performance computing.

The High-Performance Computing Revitalization and the Energy Department High-End Computing Revitalization acts were previously approved by the House Science Committee. The legislation is being touted as a boost for innovation and U.S. competitiveness.

"These bills will help the U.S. maintain its status as the world leader in supercomputing," said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., chairman of the science panel.

The legislation aims to strengthen U.S. supercomputing capabilities by requiring that the National Science Foundation and the Energy Department ensure that U.S. researchers have access to high-performance computers. It would also increase interagency coordination of supercomputing programs.

The Energy Department bill would establish an R&D program within DOE to develop more advanced computers. It also would authorize the agency to establish supercomputer user facilities that would be available for use by U.S. researchers on a competitive, peer-reviewed basis.

Last August, a National Academy of Sciences interim report on the future of supercomputing said the government should adopt a balanced approach to backing research in both custom and off-the-shelf supercomputing technologies.

Congress has poured millions of dollars into supercomputer R&D over the last several years. Much of the funding has gone to projects overseen by the Energy Department's network of national laboratories. One goal of the R&D effort is to catch up with Japan, and especially NEC Corp., whose Earth Simulator machine has maintained its lead as the world's fastest computer.

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