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

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Publication date: 
28 November 2011

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)


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