Congress includes funds for faster computers

Budget agreement increases Dept. of Energy's supercomputing budget

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The budget deal reached by Congress increases U.S. government support for supercomputing. It's a sign that lawmakers are pushing back on President Trump's science-cutting agenda.

The bipartisan 2017 fiscal year budget agreement, which funds the government through September 30, includes $5.4 billion for the Department of Energy's science programs, a $42 million increase -- or less than 1% -- compared to the 2016 budget. The DOE leads U.S. supercomputing development.

The funding "shows that high-performance computing is still a priority for Congress," said Peter Harsha, director of government affairs at the Computing Research Association.

The advanced computing budget, a subset of the overall science budget, increased by 4.2%.

The threat to supercomputing funding is far from over. By the end of this month, the Trump administration will release a 2018 budget, which will begin October 1, and that budget is expected to seek a $900 million cut in DOE science funding.

Nonetheless, this short-term agreement did offer some hope for science advocates.

After Trump released his budget outline for 2018, Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, warned that it would "cripple" science. But after this latest agreement, Holt said, "We are pleased to see continued support for the research budgets," in a statement.

The U.S. is competing with China, Europe and Japan to develop exascale systems. The U.S. had set 2021 to deliver an initial exascale system, which will have approximately 50 times the performance of the 20-petaflop system now available.

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