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The National Strategic Computing Initiative Turns One

One year following the launch of the NSCI, the Administration summarizes progress made and new announcements in support of the Initiative's goals.

One year ago today, President Obama established the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI) via Executive Order to ensure continued U.S. leadership in high-performance computing (HPC). Through this initiative, the Federal government, in collaboration with industry and academia, strives to maximize the benefits of HPC for the American economy and scientific discovery.

Since the launch of NSCI, Federal agencies have taken important steps to create the foundation for a long-lasting and successful Federal initiative. This includes the development and recent release of a Strategic Plan outlining the near-term goals of the Federal partners as well as opportunities for private sector engagement and leadership. In coordination with the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program, NSCI launched a new website to consolidate and distribute information, news, and opportunities for engagement to the community nationwide. 


In addition to the coordinated interagency efforts, Federal agencies have also undertaken a number of individual actions in support of the NSCI objectives. For example,

The Department of Energy (DOE) has:

  • Invested in a suite of efforts to continue developing the research base for "Post-Moore's Law era" computing. These activities include convenings, such as a workshop on neuromorphic computing and a science roundtable with representatives from national laboratories and universities on quantum-based sensors; release of a request for proposals on machine learning research; and creation of strategic partnerships with the private sector to establish testbeds for Post-Moore’s Law computing systems in energy-efficient machines that mimic the brain's abilities (including a D-Wave 2X system deployed at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a 4 billion synapse neuromorphic system hosted at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory).
  • Established a series of NSCI interagency and public-private collaborations that also support other Administration Initiatives.  DOE is supporting the Vice President’s Cancer Moonshot in several ways, including the creation of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer program at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to accelerate progress in pushing both the frontiers of high-performance computing and predictive oncology and the launch of a public-private partnership to accelerate precision medicine from molecule to patient that initially includes the NCI and GlaxoSmithKline but hopes to include additional partners.  It has also established a collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to more broadly support the Precision Medicine Initiative by applying advanced supercomputing capabilities and data analysis to the nearly half a million veterans’ records from one of the world's largest health research cohorts, the Million Veteran Program (MVP).  This five year partnership is now underway and the first phase will focus on cardiovascular health, mental health issues, and prostate cancer.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has:

  • Issued the Energy-Efficient Computing: from Devices to Architectures (E2CDA) program solicitation with the private sector to support new research to minimize the energy impacts of processing, storing, and moving data within future computing systems.
  • Deployed four new national data-focused HPC resources in the last 14 months, the largest number and the most diverse set of NSF-supported HPC resources ever deployed in a similar time period, which includes Jetstream at Indiana University, Bridges at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, Comet at the San Diego Supercomputing Center/University of California San Diego, and Wrangler at the Texas Advanced Computing Center/University of Texas at Austin.
  • Issued a Software Institute Conceptualization award that sponsors community workshops and conceptual work to take advantage of the significant data and computing requirements of the Large Hadron Collider as a science driver for next generation high-performance software and sustainability developments.

The Department of Defense (DOD) has:

  • Initiated the Quantum Science and Engineering Program in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, focused on accelerating critical technologies for quantum networks and sensors that enable capabilities impossible to achieve with classical systems over the next three years. 
  • Implemented a micro-services architecture for the Army’s High Performance Computing Modernization Program Portal, a framework for building easier-to-use HPC applications that provides zero-footprint secure access to high performance computers via a web browser, to enhance performance for the current user base and be affordably scaled to a larger user base.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity has:

  • Launched two new funding programs focused on advancing HPC hardware, software, and capabilities.  The Logical Qubit (LogiQ) program aims to overcome the limitations of current multi-qubit systems by building a logical qubit from a number of imperfect physical qubits, and the Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) program seeks to revolutionize machine learning by reverse-engineering the algorithms of the brain.
  • Published two new Broad Agency Announcements for the Quantum Enhanced Optimization (QEO) program, which seeks to harness quantum effects required to solve complex problems, and the SuperTools program which will develop a new superconducting circuit design flow.
  • Released RFIs on Energy Efficient Computing Architectures, Data Ingress and Data Egress in Cryogenic Systems, Neurally Inspired Computing Principles, Electronic Design Automation tools for Superconducting Electronics, and Spectral Holographic Optical Processing.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology  (NIST) has:

  • Announced the HPC Security Workshop, to take place in Fall 2016, to identify security priorities and principles that should be incorporated into NSCI and bring together stakeholders from industry, academia, and Government, and to identify gaps that should be addressed.
  • Created an NSCI seminar series to cover a broad array of topics designed to increase the knowledge base of NIST staff in advanced computing and data science as well as highlighting specific areas where NIST is likely to play a critical role, such as materials for future computational platforms, measurement and testing science, algorithms and applied mathematics, and neuromorphic and quantum computing.


In addition to the activities over the last year described above, Federal agencies are announcing a new set of actions today that will further the objectives of the Initiative and engage the academic and industry sectors in support of NSCI. These steps include:

  • NSF is establishing two multi-institutional Scientific Software Innovation Institutes that will develop sustainable community software platforms in support of NSCI. One institute, based at the University of California, San Diego will focus on supporting the development of advanced portals to democratize HPC access. The other institute at Virginia Tech will develop an end-to-end cyber ecosystem for the molecular sciences community.
  • Today, the University of Maryland UMD and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) announced a strategic partnership that enables the broad deployment of high-performance computing (HPC) resources and creates a national model of research collaboration.  As part of ARL's Open Campus Initiative, and in collaboration with DOD HPC Modernization Office, an ARL supercomputer will be made available to academia and private sector innovators through UMD's Mid-Atlantic Crossroads (MAX) cyberinfrastructure for application development and networking experiments.
  • Today, Federal agencies released a white paper describing the interagency vision for the emerging and innovative solutions needed to realize the Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenge for Future Computing announced in October 2015. The white paper, a collaboration by the DOE, NSF, DOD, NIST, and the Intelligence Community, describes the interagency technical priorities, highlights the challenges and opportunities associated with these priorities, and presents a guiding vision for the research and development needed to achieve key technical goals for the challenge.
  • DOE is announcing advances made in the design and development of its Exascale Computing Project (ECP). Achievement of this milestone is based on a year’s work following the signing of the EO, including formal inauguration of the ECP, calls for proposals for exascale hardware and software technologies, and identification of the first round of ECP applications software areas.

Erin Szulman is Policy Advisor to the Chief of Staff at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Meredith Drosback is Assistant Director for Education and Physical Sciences at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

William T. (Tim) Polk is Assistant Director for Cybersecurity at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.