In what could fairly be described as a “love in,” Thursday’s House Science Committee hearing on HR 4218, the High Performance Computing Revitalization Act of 2004 (HPCRA), featured witnesses from the Administration, industry, university and federal labs all singing the praises of the committee’s bill to amend the 1991 High Performance Computing and Communications Act. The Committee’s bill, discussed in a previous blog entry, attempts to address concerns within the computing community about interagency coordination in the government-wide Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program generally, and specifically within the high-performance computing community. In essence, the bill tries to do three things:
- Make sure US researchers have access to the best machines available;
- Make sure research moves forward on a broad range of architectures, software, applications, algorithms, etc.; and,
- Assure the interagency planning process really works.
Without exception, the four witnesses called to testify before the committee expressed strong support for the bill. While not going so far as to say the interagency planning process was broken, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Marburger agreed the bill would help strengthen interagency coordination in high-end computing and offered the Administration’s support for the bill.
Administration support will “grease the wheels” of the legislative process a bit for this particular bill, though it’s by no means an easy path to passage. From talking to various committee staff, it appears the biggest hurdle for the bill is actually on the Senate side. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, needs to be convinced that the HPCRA doesn’t contain provisions that should be in his Energy bill (S 2095) — otherwise his reluctance to move anything through his committee (to which HPCRA would no doubt be referred) that looks like a piece of the Energy bill will stop the HPCRA in its tracks. On the House side, the path forward for the bill looks relatively clear. The Science Committee plans a “markup” on the bill in early June, and time for consideration on the House floor is already tentatively scheduled in July. Elements of the House Leadership are apparently very interested in making the bill part of a “improving national competitiveness” theme this summer.