National Strategic Computing Initiative Investments in FY 2017

Posted by Alexander Rossino on June 15, 2016

Small Businesses in Big Data

Last July, the White House released an executive order creating a National Strategic Computing Initiative. The NSCI, as it has come to be called, kicked off “a whole-of-government effort designed to create a cohesive, multi-agency strategic vision and federal investment strategy, executed in collaboration with industry and academia, to maximize the benefits of high-performance computing for the United States.” Specific objectives outlined in the NSCI included investing in exascale computing, coordinating big data analytical efforts with developments in modeling and simulation, establishing a path forward for future HPC systems even after the limits of current semiconductor technology are reached, increasing the capacity and capability of the nation’s HPC ecosystem by addressing networking technology, workflow, downward scaling, foundational algorithms and software, accessibility, and workforce development, and developing public-private collaboration to ensure that the benefits of the research and development advances are shared among the U.S. government, private industry, and academia.

Last summer I posted two articles (here and here) detailing where it appeared that investments related to the NSCI would be made in Fiscal Year 2016. I’ve wanted to update the numbers for FY 2017, but haven’t been able to until now because the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program hadn’t released its annual supplement to the president’s budget request.

That update finally came out in May, providing the new numbers and priorities. For FY 2017, NITRD changed the names of the categories into which related research and development funding falls. What formerly was called High-End Computing (HEC) now falls under two categories: Enabling R&D for High-Capability Computing Systems (EHCS) and High-Capability Computing Systems Infrastructure and Applications (HCSIA). The table below provides the total dollars that relevant agencies plan to spend in FY 2017 on EHCS and HCSIA.

NSCI Budget Table

NSCI-related initiatives under EHCS include the following:

  • Furthering collaboration between multiple federal agencies on the broad use and applicability of exascale computing by coordinating activities through the Department of Energy.
  • Supporting next generation modeling and simulation and large-scale analytics for scientific research at the National Science Foundation.

One thing the NITRD supplement makes clear is that even though many federal agencies are participating in the NSCI, the DOE and the NSF are the most important players. The supplement notes that the DOE has requested $285M for a major NSCI-related investment, but after examining the DOE’s FY 2017 budget request, I haven’t been able to pin down what this investment is. Investments that are identified in DOE’s request as being part of the NSCI include $40.2M for the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) program and an additional $95M for “activities and research leading to [the] deployment of [an] exascale capability for national security applications in the early 2020’s.” The $40.2M will be spent to transition integrated codes for the Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Program “that work efficiently on emerging high-performance computers; [to] develop next-generation codes; [and to] maintain computing resources and facilities that provide high-end modeling and computing platforms and supporting infrastructure.”

The lone budgeted activity at the NSF related to the NSCI falls under the Cyberinfrastructure Framework for 21st Century Science, Engineering, and Education (CIF21) program. CIF21 will receive $33.2M in FY 2017 to “accelerate and transform the process of scientific discovery and innovation by providing advanced cyberinfrastructure that enables new functional capabilities in computational and data-enabled science and engineering.”

Lastly, the NITRD supplement makes reference to the Department of Homeland Security “experiment[ing] with high-capability computing resources developed under the NSCI.” DHS’s FY 2017 budget request states that the Science and Technology Directorate is documenting high performance computing requirements for the department in the context of developing “Decision Analytics.” No funding amounts are mentioned in connection with this activity, but the reference to using HPC resources developed under the NSCI suggests that DHS will utilize capabilities provided by the DOE or another federal agency.

There we have it. The DOE and NSF investments mentioned above are the only ones explicitly identified as being part of the NSCI in FY 2017. Those who had hoped that this year’s NITRD supplement would clarify the role agencies like the FBI would play in the NSCI will be disappointed. NOAA intends to transfer ownership of its Zeus HPC resource (383 TF capacity) to the FBI through an interagency agreement, so the FBI will join the HPC community. It just won’t be spending money with industry to acquire the capability.

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