Energy's 2007 budget request boosts supercomputing

The Energy Department has announced it will request an $82 million increase for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program in the fiscal 2007 budget to be released Feb. 6.

As part of President Bush’s new American Competitiveness Initiative, which he unveiled in this week’s State of the Union Address, DOE will ask for $318.7 million for the program, up from the $237 million appropriated for fiscal 2006.

Last year at this time, the president proposed cutting the program by 11 percent, from the $233 million appropriated in fiscal 2005 to $207 million.

The program funds the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Energy Sciences Network that links researchers and facilities, and the Next Generation Computer Architecture research on the computing challenges of the future.

NERSC is one of the largest U.S. supercomputing centers dedicated to unclassified, basic science research. It employs more than 2,000 DOE researchers.

NERSC users are simulating combustion to design car engines that use less gasoline and emit fewer pollutants. Some experts expect that such engines could eventually save up to $31 billion a year in energy-associated costs.

Scientists, academics and other institutional researchers affiliated with NERSC nationwide are also using the supercomputing resources for scientific disciplines such as climate modeling, simulations of the early universe and protein structure investigation.

Members of the research and development community have long warned that supercomputing efforts in the United States could decline if more money isn’t devoted to research.

Now, there seems to be bipartisan support for boosting supercomputing funding.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded to the president’s competitiveness speech by saying, “House Democrats are ready to work with the president to move our country forward and keep America competitive. Nothing could be more important.”

Pelosi added, “We must now go beyond words and speeches and make the commitment in next year’s budget to a sustained investment in technological innovation and educational excellence to ensure that our country remains competitive against formidable international competition and generates high-quality jobs throughout the 21st century. Nothing less is at stake than America’s economic leadership.”

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