Next Generation Supercomputing Bill Introduced in the House


Provisions promoting workforce development and energy efficient operations, among others, are included in the legislation.

As the Energy Department prepares to launch America’s first of several next-generation exascale supercomputers, a couple Republican lawmakers want Congress to consider future-facing investments for the even higher performing machines that will follow. 

Rep. Jay Obernolte, R-Calif., recently introduced the Next Generation Computing Research and Development Act, which lays out multiple provisions intended to help pave the way for systems and technologies that will surpass classical computing capabilities.

“The future of innovation lies in our ability to unlock new answers about the workings of our world,” Obernolte said in a statement. “Those answers will only come with the help of the next generation of supercomputers.” 

Guided by the general scale of high-performance system capabilities, exascale is next to be reached. The in-the-works, advanced systems will be able to perform a billion-billion operations per second. They are essentially a 10x order of magnitude more powerful than the fastest contemporary supercomputers. Eyeing what comes after that, Obernolte said this new legislation would help U.S. scientists and students uncover new answers to challenges that involve predicting weather patterns, strengthening our energy grid and more.

Specifically, the 9-page bill—shared with Nextgov Thursday—calls for the Energy Department to implement a “research, development, and demonstration program to advance computational and networking capabilities to analyze, model, simulate, and predict complex phenomena relevant to the development of new energy technologies and the competitiveness of the United States.’’ The agency has already made a few moves to ready for the after-exascale era, but the legislation would further form an initiative “to develop and implement a strategy for achieving computing systems with capabilities beyond exascale computing systems.” The bill would also promote a program encompassing the fundamental research, development, and demonstration of energy efficient computing technologies “relevant to advanced computing applications in high performance computing, artificial intelligence, and scientific machine learning.”

Building the talent pipeline is also an aim of this bill. It calls for the Energy Department to support a Computational Science Graduate Fellowship program that would facilitate collaboration between graduate students and researchers at the National Laboratories. The legislation also includes upgrades to the Energy Sciences Network user facility.

Among other inclusions, multiple reports to Congress on some of those efforts would also be required by this proposal. It was referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

“Investing in research like this is what’s needed to keep the U.S. ahead of foreign competitors like the Chinese Communist Party,” Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said in a statement. Lucas, who serves as a ranking member on that committee, added that he was “proud to join Rep. Obernolte on this important bill.”