Statement Of Sen. Alexander - High-Performance Computing: Regaining U.S. Leadership

Posted on April 12, 2005

The purpose of this hearing is to examine how the U.S. can recapture world-wide leadership in high-performance computing. To do that we are here to consider S.2176, The High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004, which I have co-sponsored with Senator Bingaman. Until March of 2002, the United States was the undisputed leader in high-speed computing. That advantage has played a significant role in our ability to compete in the global marketplace and our standard of living. Since World War II, according to the National Academy of Sciences, half of our job growth can be attributed to our investments in science and technology. In 2002, however, Japan introduced its Earth Simulator, which is currently 2.5 times more powerful than any other high-performance computer in the world. When Japan first introduced the Earth Simulator, it was nearly 5 times more powerful than any other high-performance computer in the world. Senator Bingaman and I both recently visited Japan and were briefed on the significance of Japan's investment in the Earth Simulator. Japan's development of the Earth Simulator meant that the United States no longer was the clear leader in high-performance computing, and for the first time, American researchers were looking abroad to obtain access to the latest computing tools. Recapturing the lead in high-speed computing is one of the top priorities in the Secretary of Energy's 20-year facility plan. This bill and the companion bill that was reported out of the House Committee on Science last week will help the U.S. do that. High-performance computing is important to this country for several reasons. First, it will allow us to address a variety of scientific questions. For example, in the Senate we often debate the impact of global warming and climate change. We base a lot of decisions about clean air regulations  decisions that cost us money  on what is happening in the Earth's climate. High-end, advanced computing will help us simulate the Earth's climate and have better science upon which to base these very important policy decisions. Second, high-performance computing is required to examine whether fusion power can become a reality. Fusion could provide low-cost energy for people around the world. Also, nanoscience has the possibility of revolutionizing chemistry and materials sciences. The full benefit of nanoscience may not be reached without detailed simulation of quantum interactions. Third, there is a large concern in this country about keeping our jobs from moving overseas. Advanced computing would enable us to lower our manufacturing costs and improve our technologies - that means better jobs here in the United States. Last month, the Department of Energy took an important step toward putting America back in the forefront of high-speed computing. DOE announced that the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee was selected as the winner of its competition to develop a leadership class computational facility. ORNL will lead an effort that includes many of the brightest minds in our country to try to reassert our leadership in high-speed computing. Today, we will hear first-hand how re-establishing our leadership will enable us not only to address grand scientific challenges, but to advance our manufacturing industry to enhance U. S. competitiveness. We will also hear about the need for a commitment by the federal government to develop high-performance computing systems and the clear signal that this commitment sends to our computer manufacturers and our universities. In conclusion, I want to thank our distinguished panel of witnesses for being here today, and I look forward to hearing their testimony.