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House Science Committee Holds Supercomputing Hearing

On January 28, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Subcommittee on Energy, held a hearing on “Supercomputing and American Technology Leadership.” The hearing allowed committee members to assess the importance of federal support for supercomputing facilities in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) national laboratories.

Witnesses included Norman Augustine, board member of the Bipartisan Policy Council; Dr. Roscoe Giles, Chairman of the DOE Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee; David Turek, Vice President for Technical Computing at IBM; and Dr. James Crowley, Executive Director of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. Their testimony affirmed the importance of federal support for basic research. Mr. Augustine pointed out the economic, medical, societal, and national security benefits of funding for basic research projects, which are unlikely to be funded by the private sector because they are “long term, high-risk/high-payoff, often large projects with applicability that may not be evident at their outset.” He discussed a robust supercomputing infrastructure as a requisite for economic innovation and for accommodating rapidly developing and increasingly complex scientific knowledge. He encouraged partnerships among industry, academia, and the national labs, and recommended reform of conflict-of-interest laws to invigorate the transfer of people and knowledge between the national labs.

The witnesses also spoke to several other points:

  • The development of advanced computing in Japan, Europe, India, China, Russia, and Korea, and the importance of advanced computing research and development for ensuring U.S. competitiveness and economic security.
  • The need for technical education funding to train the next generation of highly-specialized computer scientists and engineers.
  • How supercomputing technology will empower the DOE to conduct more thorough analyses of complex phenomena, including the U.S. power grid, nuclear contamination following an accident, and the physical behavior of materials utilized in clean energy technologies.