The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved and sent to the Senate two bills designed to help the U.S. regain an edge in high-performance supercomputing that might lead to government contracts for Palo Alto-based Hewlett-Packard Co. and other computer makers.
The bills, which don't provide any funding and are mainly advisory, are intended to spur coordination among federal agencies to develop high-speed supercomputers for use by automakers, drug makers and other companies in the research and development of new products. Lawmakers said the U.S. must improve computers to compete with the Japanese, who introduced the world's fastest computer in 2002.
"What the Japanese have done is send a strong signal as a reminder to all of us that this is a very competitive marketplace," said House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.).
In May, the Energy Department awarded $25 million to its Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to head a partnership that included Seattle-based Cray Inc., Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp. and Mountain View, Calif.-based Silicon Graphics Inc. in building the world's most powerful supercomputer by 2007.
The fastest computer in the U.S. is housed at the Energy Department's Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico.
Both bills were approved by voice vote. One directs the White House to take the lead in developing a "road map" for federal investment in high-speed computers and to improve security for super-fast computing and networking systems. The effort enlists such agencies as the Energy Department and the National Science Foundation. An advisory committee would report to Congress every two years.
The second bill directs the Energy Department to develop its own strategy for improving computers. Funding for any projects would have to be approved by Congress.