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January 1993

NSF HPCC Down, but not Out
Ken Kennedy, Director, CRPC

The dust has finally settled on the NSF budget picture for FY93 and it looks like the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) program is alive and well, even though it will be a disastrous year for the overall NSF research budget. As reported in Science, the NSF "Research and Related" budget category suffered a decrease of $14 million from FY92, leaving that category at $1.86 billion. This is particularly disappointing in light of former President Bush's original FY93 request of $2.212 billion, an 18 percent increase, which would have included a $61 million increase for HPCC.

In the light of this bad news, it had been widely expected that the HPCC budget would be flat as well, which would have seriously damaged the NSF HPCC program. The results are now in and the outcome is better than expected. NSF's 1993 operating plan, submitted to Congress in December, shows a modest increase of $25 million for HPCC.

Merrell Patrick, the HPCC coordinator for the NSF, was upbeat about the budget in a recent phone interview. Although it is $36 million less than the original request, this level of funding will allow:

  • The planned development of NSFnet to continue, including an activity in testbeds for educational use of the network.
  • Another round of the "Grand Challenge Applications Group" competition, possibly at a reduced level.
  • Support for the programs for Postdoctoral Research Associates in computational science and engineering and in experimental computer science.
  • Further development of the NSF Metacenter concept--this involves linking all of the supercomputer centers into a single national machine room.
  • A small increase in the support for basic research on algorithms, software, tools, and techniques for HPCC. Funding for this last program will be administered through the standard single-investigator research programs.

According to Patrick, the HPCC budget is sufficient to permit a modest expansion of HPCC activities, although nowhere near what had been planned at the beginning of the budget cycle. This is about the best that could be expected, given that the NSF research budget has declined for the first time in many years. The number of new research awards in FY93 will be substantially less than hoped for at the beginning of the budget cycle.

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