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Senators Urge Continued Support for DOE Exascale Computing Initiative in FY 2013

Richard M. Jones
Number 141 - November 28, 2011  |  Search FYI  |   FYI Archives  |   Subscribe to FYI

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Today is an important milestone in the development of the FY 2013 budget.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officially responds to the draft budget requests of federal departments and agencies, in a process known as the “passback.”  Between now and the end of January, OMB will work with the departments and agencies in the development of a federal budget request that President Barack Obama will send to Congress in early February.

Development of the FY 2013 budget continues as Congress attempts to wrap up appropriations for FY 2012 that started almost two months ago.  With the exception of the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, other FY 2012 budgets tracked by FYI have not been settled.  Current funding for all other departments and agencies continues through December 16.  It is hoped that a final appropriations measure will be enacted by that time.

There is interest in the FY 2013 budget request for the Department of Energy on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.  Earlier this month, twenty-four Democratic and Republican senators wrote to President Obama, stating, “Given the strong support our global competitors are receiving, it is imperative that the U.S. continue to commit resources to remain competitive in the HPC [High Performance Computing] race to exascale capability.”  Exascale computers can perform one million trillion calculations per second.  The Department of Energy highlighted the importance of exascale computing in the development of energy sources, understanding biogeochemical cycles, and the development of communications, homeland security, and defense systems in a budget document (PDF page 13) submitted to Congress in February of this year.

There is supportive language in the Energy and Water Development reports of the House (PDF page 107) and Senate (PDF page 92) Appropriations Committee this year on exascale computing in the sections on the Office of Science.  The Senate report explains that its version of the FY 2012 bill recommends $90 million for the Department of Energy’s exascale initiative.

The full text of the November 8 letter follows:

Dear Mr. President:

We write to you to ask for your continued support and leadership to advance the Department of Energy’s (DOE) exascale computing initiative. America’s leadership in high performance computing (HPC) is essential to a vast range of national priorities in science, energy, environment, health, and national security.

U.S. leadership in HPC is threatened by strategic governmental investments in HPC programs in China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the European Union. In November 2010 the most powerful U.S. supercomputer was unseated and now ranks only third in the world behind computers from Japan and China. These foreign governments have recognized the crucial role HPC plays in both developing new technologies and increasing efficiencies in existing systems -- leadership in HPC means greater economic competitiveness and national security.

For decades the U.S. was the leader in HPC through collaborative efforts led by the DOE between national laboratories, academia, and industry. Investments in HPC have enabled extraordinary scientific and technical advances in support of DOE’s mission priorities and many Federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, rely heavily on supercomputing and advances in HPC.

Now, the race is on to develop exascale computing capabilities -- supercomputers 1000 times more powerful than the fastest computers today. This will require the development of new computer architectures with improved power consumption, memory, reliability, and software. As with previous generations of HPC systems, the resulting technological advances will further support Federal priorities like energy research and national security and will be integrated into electronics industries strengthening high-tech competitiveness and driving economic growth.

The U.S. cannot afford to cede leadership in HPC, and the DOE has embarked on a program that again combines the talents of the national laboratories, academia, and industry to develop exascale computing capabilities by the year 2020. Due to the competitive nature of HPC and the progress and governmental support foreign competitors are enjoying, it is critical that the U.S. not delay its exascale computing efforts.

We commend you for the support of exascale computing you have already shown by requesting the initial funding in the FY2012 Budget Request. Given the strong support our global competitors are receiving, it is imperative that the U.S. continue to commit resources to remain competitive in the HPC race to exascale capability.

We encourage you to continue your support of the DOE exascale computing initiative through a request in the FY2013 Budget Request.

The following senators signed this letter:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
John Boozman (R-AR)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Scott Brown (R-MA)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Christopher Coons (D-DE)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Al Franken (DFL-MN)
Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY)
Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Herb Kohl (D-WI)
Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Patty Murray (D-WA)
Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
Charles Schumer (D-NY)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Ron Wyden (D-OR)


Richard M. Jones
Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics