White House Updates National Strategic Computing Initiative

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The document refocuses objectives from the country’s 2016 computing plan.

To keep up with and drive the rapid advancements emerging across the national computing landscape, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released Thursday an update to the National Strategic Computing Initiative. 

“These priorities will help ensure next generation computing will enable technological advancements and scientific discoveries for the benefit of all Americans,” Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios said in a statement.

The U.S. already boasts five of the top 10 fastest supercomputers in the world, including the two fastest: Summit and Sierra. Earlier this year, the Energy Department also announced its aim to launch Aurora, America’s first exascale supercomputer, with performance capabilities of at least one exaflop, which is a quintillion—or a billion billion—calculations per second. The department later unveiled plans to launch the world’s fastest exascale supercomputer, Frontier, at full capacity by 2021. On top of other high-performance supercomputing announcements, Kratsios also recently described the federal support Google received in its effort to achieve quantum supremacy.

The NCSI was created under an executive order launched by the Obama administration in 2015, with the intent of bringing together a “whole-of-nation” effort to accelerate American leadership in high-performance supercomputing. An NCSI executive council was also established and is made up of federal technology leaders from a variety of agencies. In 2016, the council previously published the U.S. Strategic Computing Plan. 

Upon recognizing “new and potentially disruptive technologies and the demands of new classes of data-intensive applications” that are now accelerating the evolution of computing capabilities, OSTP and the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Networking and Information Technology Research and Development created a Fast Track Action Committee on Strategic Computing in June. Since then, the committee has engaged with public, private and academic partners to inform their development of the updated plan. 

“The [update] provides a framework to drive the future of computing, improve our computational infrastructure, and create lasting multi-sector partnerships to ensure continued American leadership,” Kratsios said.  

According to the executive summary, the refocused objectives are threefold. They aim to:

  • Pioneer new frontiers of digital and non-digital computation to address the scientific and technological challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
  • Develop, broaden, and advance the nation’s computational infrastructure and ecosystem.
  • Forge and expand partnerships for the future of computing to ensure American leadership in science, technology, and innovation.

Compared to the 2016 plan, the updated version ultimately places a much sharper emphasis on computer hardware, software and overall infrastructures, and developing innovative, real-world applications and opportunities to support the future of American computing. 

Following the announcement, OSTP’s assistant director for quantum information science and assistant director for artificial intelligence will both participate in an international supercomputing conference next week, where they plan to highlight the administration’s efforts around supercomputing.