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COMPETES clears committee, a lot of news for HPC

Earlier this week I offered a quick look at the COMPETES reauthorization when the chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology introduced the bill to the full committee. My analysis was ok as far as it goes, but the “go to” team for this sort of thing is Peter Harsha and his folks at the CRA Policy Blog. Peter posted yesterday as the bill headed into final committee markup with more than 50 amendments to get through (note that both the House Science and Education and Labor committees are marking up the bill).

US Capitol DomeCOMPETES provided authorizations for three key federal science agencies – the National Science Foundation, National Institute for Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science – setting targets that would help put those agencies on a path that could see their budgets double over 10 years.

A lot of HPC is represented in those agencies, including the TeraGrid and the world’s largest supercomputer. This new bill also adds an authorization for ARPA-E (DoE’s DARPA), and incorporates the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2009, originally passed in the House as HR 2020 but died in the Senate. This is significant because that text again tries to bring order to the chaos of the HPC landscape across the US government

That bill would require the agencies participating in the federal government’s NITRD program to develop a strategic plan and review progress against the plan annually; encourage coordination between the participating agencies; require the program to support R&D in cyber-physical systems, HCI, visualization and information management; and call on NSF to improve IT education to encourage the participation of women and underrepresented minorities.

At the end of the day yesterday the the committee announced that the bill cleared committee and should now head to the full House for a vote, but not with all of its authorizations intact. A manager’s amendment was approved that lowered authorizations across the board by 10%

“This funding trajectory is not as steep as the bill enacted in 2007 and it is not as shallow as the president’s budget request,” said [committee chairman Bart] Gordon. “The funding path provides a modest cushion above the president’s request in the event our deficits come down and more funds are available. At the same time, we provide a stable, sustainable, and achievable set of authorization levels across the agencies in the bill. These levels are lower than I would like them, but I believe they are practical considering our current budget deficits. At a time of flat discretionary budgets, a seven percent annual growth rate allows for continued progress in getting our research programs back on a path to be the best in the world.”

The committee announcement also has a nice, easy to grok summary of the 6 titles of the bill (which, at over 200 pages, is easy to get lost in). If you are interested in the couple dozen or so amendments that made it out of committee, you can find those here (fair warning, though: don’t read them while operating heavy machinery).

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