Imagine the potential of a supercomputer 200,000 times faster than your desktop PC, one that could accomplish in one day tasks it would take an average computer more than 530 years to complete.

Congress has a chance this week to reach agreement on legislation that would promote critical research in high-performance computing and help America build the world’s fastest supercomputer by 2023. Advanced computing enables breakthroughs that will help keep America strong, competitive, and at the forefront of innovation, and Congress should support it.

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Supercomputers use leading edge semiconductor technology to solve complex computational problems at extraordinary speeds. This massive computing power has myriad real-world applications, some of which were highlighted in a recent report by the Washington, D.C.-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

A hospital in Kansas City, Mo., for example, used high-performance computing to analyze 120 billion DNA sequences and narrowed the cause of an infant’s liver failure to two possible genetic variants. The accurate diagnosis helped save the baby’s life. Engineers at General Motors, meanwhile, have used supercomputers to simulate crash tests from every angle, test seatbelt and airbag performance, and improve pedestrian safety. And a Philadelphia consortium dedicated to energy efficiency used high-performance computing to create greener buildings by simulating thermal flows.

The future of high-performance computing holds even greater promise. Further advances in supercomputing are needed for more advanced applications, including more robust DNA sequencing and analyzing health and genomic data. The National Institutes of Health and Department of Energy are currently collaborating, as part of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, to use high-performance computing for cancer research. Additionally, many U.S. companies will utilize supercomputers to analyze and create products with a greater level of precision than ever before. 

Congress can help high-performance computing take the next giant leap forward. The House and Senate this week are negotiating a package of bills to reform the nation’s energy policy, including research programs at the Department of Energy’s National Labs. The package includes the American Super Computing Leadership Act (H.R. 874) and the ExaSCALE Computing Leadership Act (S. 454), both of which would advance high-performance computing research with the goal of building the world’s fastest supercomputer over the next seven years. The legislation would also establish partnerships among industry, academia, and government agencies to meet this challenge.

The time has come to expand our investments in high-performance computing. While the U.S. currently leads the world in high-performance computing development and usage, other countries have devoted significant resources to close the gap. China now has the world’s fastest supercomputer, and the European Union, Japan, and other nations are aggressively pursuing their own high-performance computing initiatives.

Ensuring U.S. leadership in this critical area goes beyond just building the world’s fastest supercomputers. It’s also about keeping America at the tip of the spear of innovation. In the semiconductor industry, the U.S. has maintained global leadership by innovating more quickly than the rest of the world. Research to advance high-performance computing will help fuel U.S. technology leadership and boost America’s global competitiveness for decades to come.

Recognizing this, President Obama last year created the National Strategic Computing Initiative, a program designed to utilize research and direct federal investment across multiple government agencies to advance high-performance computing research. In an era of tight budgets, leaders on Capitol Hill have also worked to increase funding for these research programs. While the Administration and Congress often have difficulty finding common ground, high-performance computing stands out as an exception, garnering the support of both Democrats and Republicans in Washington.

From curing disease and making cars safer to improving energy efficiency and developing new advanced manufacturing techniques, high-performance computing makes possible breakthroughs that will strengthen our economy, our country, and the health of our people. Congress should send to the President’s desk legislation that implements and funds high-performance computing research programs.


John Neuffer is president and CEO of the Semiconductor Industry Association.