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Congressman Randy Hultgren

Representing the 14th District of ILLINOIS

Supercomputing: The key to America’s innovation edge

Mar 3, 2015
In The News

The Hill

America has a proud heritage of breakthroughs that have led the world in supercomputing innovation. These advancements have positioned our great nation at the forefront of landmark scientific discoveries — from designing fuel-efficient cars to predicting the evolution of diseases — while meeting our national security needs.

Today, America’s leadership in supercomputing technology is being challenged by several sovereign nations. These countries have seen firsthand that funding research in advanced computing contributes to the growth of their domestic industries and their influence on the global stage.

China in particular has defined a national plan to achieve and maintain global leadership in supercomputing innovation. The fastest supercomputer in the world, according to the Linpack benchmarks, is currently housed in China’s National University of Defense Technology. Japan, meanwhile, has launched a government-funded supercomputing program, while Russia, India and several European countries are also prioritizing advancement of this technology.

If the United States falls behind in investments to supercomputing research and development, it will cede the talented minds and skill sets needed to help solve tomorrow’s biggest scientific, business and national security challenges. As we debate the merits of continued investment, other countries are devoting resources and watching as their domestic innovation programs gain momentum.

Discoveries unlocked through advancements in supercomputing technology have yielded scientific and commercial benefits that have reshaped society. These computers have sped up the pace of oil discovery, helped design new materials, rooted out fraud in consumer transactions and contributed to countless other innovations.

But the challenges of tomorrow, defined by the era of big data, will require a new breed of computer. Congress has a fundamental responsibility to support the kinds of research and development necessary for the next generation of machines that allow us to respect international commitments for the maintenance of our nuclear stockpile with co-benefits that our nation’s economic and scientific leadership will depend on.

This imperative was a key driver for the recent reintroduction of the bipartisan American Super Computing Leadership Act, H.R. 874. Its goal is to jump-start research in high-performance computing technologies in order to accelerate American leadership in advanced computing. This field of innovation is not a partisan issue. It is an American issue, one that has support in both houses of Congress, and we commend Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) for his leadership in introducing parallel legislation in the Senate.

We are calling on our colleagues in Congress to fund the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science in order to promote advancements in exascale computing. These machines will use processing speeds approaching that of the human brain to derive insights from massive and ever-expanding libraries of data.

Thanks to successful, long-standing partnerships between the U.S. government, the technology industry, universities and the national laboratories, America already has made tremendous progress. We have studied the genetics of the brain to aid the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, and modeled the heart to predict drug responses. Another breakthrough is using brain-inspired computer chips the size of a postage stamp to help blind people navigate their surroundings. This technology is being shared with academics, students and corporate researchers so they can start experimenting with exciting new applications. The possibilities are limitless.

Businesses also stand to benefit from sustained investment in U.S supercomputing innovation. A wide variety of businesses across multiple industries already are using data analytics technologies derived from supercomputing to gain insights, break into new markets and create more jobs to fuel our economy. Continued growth in computing performance has driven industrial productivity, efficiency and innovation. It is, without question, key to helping America compete in the rapidly accelerating global market.

Congressional support is critical to sustaining America’s leading role in solving humanity’s greatest challenges. Now, with big data holding the potential of untold breakthroughs, we cannot afford to fall behind other nations in the race to innovate. In the supercomputing race, America cannot afford to come in second.

Hultgren has represented Illinois’s 14th Congressional District since 2011. He sits on the Financial Services, and the Science, Space and Technology committees. Fleischmann has represented Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District since 2011. He sits on the Appropriations Committee. Fattah has represented Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District since 1995. He sits on the Appropriations Committee. Luján has represented New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District since 2009. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Each of the four lawmakers is a co-chairman of the Science and National Labs Caucus.