Computing Research Policy Blog

Post from Snowbird: Catching Up with Hearing News


So I’m well ensconced in the Cliff Lodge at the Snowbird Resort in Snowbird, Utah, preparing for CRA’s biannual Snowbird Conference, but finally have a chance to catch up on the blog.
As reported, former CRA Gov’t Affairs Committee Chairman and current Co-chair of PITAC Ed Lazowska testified before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and the Census on the subject of IT research and development. The first witness panel was a fairly typical government panel: Dave Nelson, head of the National Coordinating Office for IT; Peter Freeman, AD for CISE at NSF; Hratch Semerjian, Interim Director for NIST; and Edward Oliver, Associate Director of the Office of Advanced Scientific Computing at DOE. They made the standard case for the importance of IT R&D at their agencies and defended the interagency coordination process.
The Committee Chair Adam Putnam opened the hearing with a strong statement in support of the federal role in IT R&D — worth reading. (Also available there are links to all the other testimony from the hearing.)
Lazowska was joined on the second panel by Donna Fossum, Manager of the RaDiUS Database project at RAND, William Scherlis, Computer Scientist from CMU, and Stephen Squires, from HP. Lazowska, Scherlis and Squires did a fantastic job making the case for the crucial role federal investment in IT R&D plays in fostering innovation, enabling the sciences and enabling the missions of the various federal agencies. Lazowska’s testimony, endorsed by CRA and USACM, makes a great “general” case for IT R&D, something that will probably make a good “advocacy” piece for use by anyone in the community who gets a chance to talk to their local representatives or other policymakers.
The discussion that followed the opening statements of the second panel was remarkable for its wide-range and by the obvious engagement of the subcommittee chair Putnam. Putnam, kept the panel for nearly an hour asking probing questions and really demonstrating a clear desire to understand the case. I think it’s fair to count him among the members of Congress who “get it.” I was very impressed by the discussion.
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The second panel: (from left) Fossum, Lazowska, Scherlis and Squires.

Computing Researchers Applaud Passage of High Performance Computing Legislation


Press Contact: Peter Harsha
CRA Director of Government Affairs
P: 202-234-2111 ext 106
E: harsha [at] cra.org
Computing Researchers Applaud Passage of High Performance Computing Legislation
WASHINGTON, DC, July 7, 2004 – The Computing Research Association today praised the House of Representatives for approving two measures that would authorize efforts in high-performance computing research and development. The two bills – HR 4218, the High Performance Computing Revitalization Act; and HR 4516, the Department of Energy High-end Computing Act – both demonstrate the continued importance of federal investment in computing research and development.
“It’s no surprise that in a week devoted to competitiveness and innovation, the House would choose to focus on information technology research and development,” said CRA Chairman James D. Foley. “Innovations in IT – the fruits of computing research, including high performance computing research – continue to drive U.S. productivity and enable the new economy.
“The House today sent an important message that a sustained commitment to U.S. leadership in computing research is a prerequisite to future innovation and competitiveness.”
“We commend Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN) for introducing both bills, as well as Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) for their continued leadership in making the case for federal support of fundamental IT research and development.”
While both bills represent an important show of support for the federal role in IT research and development, CRA remains concerned that the federal government is still substantially under-investing in long-term IT R&D. The current funding level for FY 2004 for the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development initiative — of which high performance computing is a part — falls nearly $683 million short of the level recommended after an in-depth review of the program by the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee in 1999. The Administration request for FY 2005 — a proposed 0.7 percent decrease over the FY 2004 level — continues a trend of shortfalls established within the first year of the PITAC recommendations.
“We remain hopeful that the actions of the House today, as well as encouraging actions by the House in approving an increase in DOE’s supercomputing efforts in the Energy and Water appropriations, indicate progress towards reversing that trend,” Foley said. “IT R&D is an investment that pays an enormous dividend: fueling the innovation that ensures the U.S. remains the world leader in business, that we have the strongest possible defense, and that we continue to find ways to live longer, healthier lives.”

The Computing Research Association (CRA) is an association of more than 200 North American Academic departments of computer science, computer engineering, and related fields; laboratories and centers in industry, government and academia engaging in basic computing research; and affiliated professional societies. For more information: http://www.cra.org

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Science Committee Views on HPC


The clearest guide to what the House Science Committee intends to accomplish in moving HR 4126 to the House floor for passage is probably found in the report accompanying the bill. I’ve reprinted the pertinent passages here, as the report doesn’t seem to be available yet on Congress’ Thomas system.

Interagency Planning and Coordination
The High-Performance Computing Act of 1991 codified an interagency planning process that remains in place today. However, the chief product of this process in recent years has been an annual retrospective review of activities undertaken by agencies, rather than a prospective planning document. The Committee expects all of the participating agencies to engage in a forward-looking planning and coordination process led by OSTP to coordinate high-performance computing activities across the federal government. The agencies, led by OSTP, should submit a coordinated budget for federal high-performance computing activities to the Office of Management and Budget. Furthermore, the agencies, led by OSTP, should develop and periodically refine a research, development, and deployment roadmap for high-performance computing systems. In addition, in formulating plans for the Program, the Committee expects the participating agencies to take into consideration the findings and recommendations of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, which is required to conduct recurring reviews of the planning, implementation, and contents of the Program.
Assuring U.S. Researchers Sustained Access to High-Performance Computing Infrastructure
The Committee believes that the High-Performance Computing Research and Development Program, in general, and NSF and DOE’s Office of Science, in particular, must provide U.S. researchers with sustained access to high-performance computers that are among the most advanced in the world in terms of performance in solving scientific and engineering problems. This is necessary in order for the U.S. to maintain its position as a world leader in scientific and engineering fields and in technology innovation. By “among the most advanced in the world,” the Committee means general purpose scientific computing systems that would rank among the top few systems in existence in performance (1) on widely accepted standardized tests, such as the LINPACK Benchmark used to generate the Top 500 list; and (2) on actual production codes for solving the most demanding problems in science and engineering disciplines. The Committee intends that such computing systems be equivalent to “Leadership Systems” as described in the May 10, 2004 report of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Federal Plan for High-End Computing.
The Committee is supportive of recent initiatives to make DOE’s Office of Science high-performance computing resources more broadly available to researchers not otherwise supported by DOE and to allocate those resources on a competitive, merit-reviewed basis. The Committee encourages DOE to increase the quantity of supercomputing resources allocated to U.S. researchers in this fashion and to provide information to the research community on the long-term availability of these resources.
The Committee is supportive of continued NSF funding of software, algorithms, networking and data storage techniques, and education and outreach activities associated with high-performance computing. However, the Committee emphasizes that significant attention and funding must also be devoted to procurement of high-performance computing hardware for high-performance computing user facilities, including the NSF supercomputer centers.
Overall, the Committee believes that for the federal government to effectively meet the scientific community’s high-performance computing needs, NSF and DOE’s Office of Science each must support Leadership Systems which should be available for use by researchers from academia, industry, and government laboratories. By use of the phrase “sustained access” the Committee expects NSF and DOE to develop and maintain plans and budgets to assure ongoing improvements in the capability of high-performance computing user facilities, such as the NSF supercomputer centers and DOE’s Office of Science high-end (high-performance) computing user facilities, so that the computing infrastructure made available through these facilities remains among the most advanced in the world.
But the most advanced high-performance computing hardware, on its own, will not be enough to enable researchers to conduct the most advanced science. The Committee believes that the development of software, applications, networking, and data storage and management techniques, including support for the applied mathematics required to develop advanced software and algorithms, will be essential to enable researchers to make effective use of the high-performance computing resources made available under this Act.
National Information Technology Research and Development Program (NITRD)
The NITRD program includes six program component areas: High End Computing, Large Scale Networking, Software Design and Productivity, Human Computer Interaction and Information Management, High Confidence Software and Systems, and Social, Economic, and Workforce Implications of Information Technology. While the focus of this Act is on high-performance computing, the Committee recognizes that all program component areas are essential parts of the federal information technology research and development effort and expects the planning and coordination process for the NITRD program to result in an appropriate balance of resources among the program component areas. The committee expects the annual report for the program to provide the rationale for the allocation of funding among the program component areas. The Committee expects that the allocations for the high end computing program component area will be sufficient to carry out this Act.

HPC Authorizations on Floor Wednesday


Two bills aimed at reauthorizing portions of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program, the interagency initiative that encompasses all of the Federal IT R&D effort, will reach the House floor on Wednesday and likely pass. We’ve detailed both bills — H.R. 4218 – the High Performance Computing Revitalization Act of 2004 and H.R. 4516 – the Department of Energy High-end Computing Revitalization Act — in this space previously.
Both bills will be considered “under suspension” — a status usually reserved for bills considered non-controversial and likely to pass. The two bills are being considered as part of the House Leadership’s “Research, Development and Innovation Week” in Congress, a week of devoted to legislation impacting research and development activities of the federal gov’t, or designed to spur innovation. So it’s appropriate that Congress should consider two bills aimed at demonstrating the importance of continued federal support for IT R&D, given IT R&D’s key role in driving innovation in the United States — a point PITAC Co-Chair and former CRA Gov’t Affairs Committee Chair Ed Lazowska will make in his testimony before a Government Reform Subcommittee hearing tomorrow.
Update (July 7, 2004): Both bills passed by voice vote. We’ll have details shortly, as well as CRA’s press release commending the House on it’s support for IT R&D.

Pics from the CNSF Science Exhibition on Capitol Hill


CRA joined 31 other scientific societies and universities yesterday in showing off the results of NSF-sponsored research at the 10th annual Coalition for National Science Funding Science Exhibition and Reception on Capitol Hill. CRA was ably represented at the event by DK Panda and his students (Jiuxing Liu, Pavan Balaji, Ranjit Noronha, and Sayantan Sur) from The Ohio State University, who presented work on software that allows high performance, scalable communication using the InfiniBand networking technology.
The Exhibition was a great opportunity for making the general case for federal support of basic research, especially at NSF. This year’s event was widely-attended. Many key congressional staffers, influential Members of Congress, and important members of the Administration and NSF took time out of their schedules to see the exhibits. Here’s the proof! (click for larger images)

The CRA booth. Underneath the table were four PCs clustered together with InfiniBand. Two monitors show the results of some benchmarking apps comparing InfiniBand to Gigabit connections.
NSF Director Arden Bement (left) listens to Professor Panda describe his research.
Ohio congressman Dave Hobson (R-OH), a very influential member of the House Appropriations Committee. Hobson has the distinction of being the only member to serve on the appropriations subcommittees for Defense, VA-HUD-Independent Agencies (home of NSF funding), and Energy and Water (which he chairs).
Hobson takes some time to speak with Panda’s students.
Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology John Marburger stops by the CRA booth.
Marburger also took time to speak with the students and ask some additional questions about the research.

Thanks again to Professor Panda and his students!

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