Recently, the dimensions of the need for clear communication about the HPCCI have become apparent: congressional oversight activities and other indicators suggest that the HPCCI is of concern to a growing constituency, and that often it needs to be explained in detail to a variety of audiences.
Such an effort will add substantially to the work of the NCO, which is currently headed by a half-time, permanent-position director who holds a concurrent, half-time appointment as director of the National Library of Medicine. The other NCO staff positions are a mix of permanent positions, contract positions, and temporary positions filled by individuals on loan from other federal agencies for limited periods of time, generally no more than one year. While the NCO reports to OSTP on programmatic matters, administrative functions such as office space, salaries, and benefits are handled through the National Institutes of Health. The temporary nature of some of the NCO positions jeopardizes continuity, cumulative insight, and intellectual ownership. Further, limited staff time and resources raise questions about the NCO’s capacity to meet the challenge of the growing volume, complexity, and urgency of the outreach efforts needed for the initiative.
The intent of Congress to have active nongovernmental input into the HPCCI is reflected in its mandate for an Advisory Committee for the initiative. Because the HPCCI encompasses not only scientific objectives but also enhancement of the industrial competitiveness of the United States, an Advisory Committee with strong application-industry, computer industry, academic, and government representation is necessary to ensure the increasing relevance of the HPCCI to industry needs.
Recommendation 1: Because the size, maturity, and visibility of the High Performance Computing and Communications Initiative now warrant a stronger National Coordination Office (NCO) than was originally envisioned, the committee recommends the following approach:
The National Coordination Office should provide an increasingly comprehensive and intensive outreach and education service. It should continue to serve a coordination function within the executive branch, organizing interagency meetings and fostering interagency cooperation. It is appropriate for the NCO to consolidate HPCCI budget information across agencies and to aid the agencies in assessing their budget requests with respect to their program commitments. However, budgetary authority should remain in the individual agencies to preclude interference with their missions.
To continue the role outlined above, the NCO needs a full-time director or coordinator. Having a part-time director has served well to this point, but the broadening of the HPCCI demands leadership unencumbered by other major responsibilities. The NCO should remain within the Office of Science and Technology Policy structure.