A subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to review the DOE Office of Science program in Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR). Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), the new chairman of the Energy Subcommittee, made clear in his opening remarks the high value he places on the program, stating:
“As we face the reality of ongoing budget constraints in Washington, it is our job in Congress to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, on innovative research that is in the national interest, and provides the best chance for broad impact and long-term success. The basic research conducted within the ASCR program clearly meets this requirement. High performance computing can lead to scientific discoveries, economic growth, and will maintain America’s leadership in science and technology.”
Weber’s remarks were shared by other members and witnesses at this one hour hearing. Coming less than a week before the release of President Obama’s FY 2016 budget, the session was the first in a series of hearings by House and Senate committees on the Administration’s request for various S&T programs.
ASCR received an appropriation of $541.0 million for this fiscal year, matching the Administration’s request. The budget increased $62.9 million or 13.2 percent above the previous year, indicative of the priority that Congress places on this program. Overall funding for the Office of Science remained flat for FY 2015, with several of its programs experiencing budget declines.
Committee members expressed support for ASCR and raised no concerns about its programs or operations. There was strong agreement among the witnesses about the importance of supercomputing to U.S. economic competitiveness. Norman Augustine of the Bipartisan Policy Center; Roscoe Giles, Chairman of the DOE Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee; Dave Turek, Vice President, Technical Computing at IBM, and James Crowley, Executive Director of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics described the important role that supercomputing plays in the development of new technologies. Common concerns and themes were supercomputing advances in other countries, the importance of federal funding, the vital role of DOE and its national laboratories and effective technology transfer, the necessity of software advances, and the difficulties in moving beyond silicon in the development of new hardware. One witnesses summed up the prevailing sentiment in this hearing by citing a report from the US Council for Competiveness, stating “to out compete, you must out compute.”