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Originally appeared in Friday, May 14, 2004 Oak Ridger

Officials testify on supercomputing issue

By: Paul Parson, Oak Ridger Staff

Oak Ridge National Laboratory's director testified Tuesday that regaining world leadership in high-performance computing is critical to science and technology, commercial competitiveness and economic growth in the United States.

Jeff Wadsworth's testimony was part of a Senate subcommittee's examination of the Department of Energy's goals for high-performance computing and ORNL's role in helping the nation reach those goals.

According to a summarized version of Wadsworth's talk, the ORNL chief noted that U.S. defense laboratories have done a good job developing supercomputers for classified weapons research, but said unclassified supercomputing research has grown stagnant. In 2002, the Japanese Earth Simulator's peak capacity of around 40 teraflops, or 40 trillion calculations per second, surpassed the 20 largest unclassified U.S. computers combined, according to Wadsworth.

The Department of Energy recently chose ORNL to build the world's fastest supercomputer. And, Wadsworth said ORNL's National Leadership Computing Facility at ORNL will help propel the nation back to the forefront of high-performance computing.

Established in May and funded by DOE, the NLCF proposes a five-year plan that will pool computational resources for the lab and the facility's partners for a sustained capacity of 50 teraflops per second and a peak capacity of more than 250 trillion teraflops per second, according to Wadsworth.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chaired the subcommittee hearing that took place in Washington, D.C.

"There is a large concern in this country about keeping our jobs from moving overseas," Alexander stated in a transcript from the subcommittee hearing. "Advanced computing would enable us to lower our manufacturing costs and improve our technologies - that means better jobs here in the United States."

The senator noted recapturing the lead in high-speed computing is one of the top priorities in a 20-year DOE facility plan. He added that a piece of legislation and a companion bill that was recently reported out of a House Committee on Science will help the United States do that.

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