those problems are fundamental to the government’s ability to address important national issues. One notable example is the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) computational requirements for stockpile stewardship.

The emergence of mainstream solutions to problems that formerly required supercomputing has caused the computer industry, the research and development community, and some government agencies to reduce their attention to supercomputing. Recently, questions have been raised about the best ways for the government to ensure that its supercomputing needs will continue to be satisfied in terms of both capability and cost-effectiveness. At the joint request of the DOE’s Office of Science and the Advanced Simulation and Computing1 (ASC) Program of the National Nuclear Security Administrations (NNSA) at DOE, the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Computer Science and Telecommunications Board convened the Committee on the Future of Supercomputing to conduct a 2-year study to assess the state of supercomputing in the United States. Specifically, the committee was charged to do the following:

  • Examine the characteristics of relevant systems and architecture research in government, industry, and academia and the characteristics of the relevant market.

  • Identify key elements of context such as the history of supercomputing, the erosion of research investment, the needs of government agencies for supercomputing capabilities, and historical or causal factors.

  • Examine the changing nature of problems demanding supercomputing (e.g., stockpile stewardship, cryptanalysis, climate modeling, bioinformatics) and the implications for systems design.

  • Outline the role of national security in the supercomputer market and the long-term federal interest in supercomputing.

  • Deliver an interim report in July 2003 outlining key issues.

  • Make recommendations in the final report for government policy to meet future needs.


Much has changed since the 1980s, when a variety of agencies invested in developing and using supercomputers. In the 1990s the High Performance Computing and Communications Initiative (HPCCI) was conceived and subsequently evolved into a broader and more diffuse pro-


ASC was formerly known as the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI). This report uses ASC to refer collectively to these programs.

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