High Performance Computing and Communications:

New Program Direction Would Benefit from a More Focused Effort

AIMD-95-6: Published: Nov 4, 1994. Publicly Released: Nov 4, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the status of the High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) program, focusing on: (1) the effectiveness of the program's management structure in setting goals and measuring progress; and (2) how extensively private industry has been involved in program planning and execution.

GAO found that: (1) the Administration is broadening the HPCC role in developing new technology in support of the National Information Infrastructure (NII); (2) industry and academic researchers believe that specific technology areas will need to be targeted to develop support for NII; (3) a more focused HPCC management approach could help ensure that program goals are met; (4) a detailed technical agenda will be needed to identify HPCC priority areas and commit resources to them; (5) inconsistent budget information has made tracking HPCC investments difficult, since participating agencies have diverse methods of identifying and categorizing their HPCC spending; (6) industry participation in HPCC is more important now that the Administration has linked HPCC to the planned NII; and (7) industries that could capitalize on HPCC technologies to create new products and services for NII should be better represented among HPCC program participants.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NCO initiated a number of activities, including workshops and standards-setting initiatives, that substantially address the concerns of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Director, National Coordinating Office (NCO), should take additional steps to promote industry participation, including involving industry representatives in the program planning process, and providing greater support for software development and standards-setting activities to make it easier for industry to develop applications of deployment on NII.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy: High Performance Computing and Communications Program National Coordination Office

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Advisory Committee on High-Performance Computing and Communications, Information Technology, and the Next Generation Internet was established by Executive Order signed by President Clinton on February 11, 1997.

    Recommendation: The Director, OSTP, should take steps to expedite the appointment of an advisory committee whose membership includes representatives from a wide range of industries.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The directors of OMB and the Office of Science and Technology Policy jointly issued guidance to executive branch agencies on April 28, 1995. However, this guidance does not describe what activities should be included within the HPCC program or how they should be organized. HPCC program managers believe strongly that participation in the program should be strictly voluntary. Therefore, it appears unlikely that this recommendation will be implemented without congressional action.

    Recommendation: The Director, OSTP, should develop, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget and Congress, detailed guidelines for preparing HPCC budgets, including guidance on the types of activities to include in the program and how they should be categorized. OSTP may wish to delegate this task to the National Science and Technology Council Committee on Information and Communications.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) National Coordination Office (NCO) has prepared several documents that address many of the concerns of this recommendation, including a FY 1995 Implementation Plan in April 1994 and a Strategic Implementation Plan in March 1995. However, none of these documents includes target investment levels to be used as a way of controlling costs. HPCC program managers do not believe that precise predetermined figures are practical within the context of a research and development program.

    Recommendation: The Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), should direct the HPCC program managers, in consultation with industry and academic representatives, to develop an explicit HPCC technical agenda, delineating the program's overall strategy and setting development priorities for specific technology areas. This document should specify target amounts of resources to be invested in each priority area and the major results that are expected, so that it can be used as a baseline for measuring progress and controlling costs.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation has been implemented. A recent example is the Committee on Information and Communications' July 1995 forum, which provided an explicit opportunity for participation in defining research priorities by industry and academia.

    Recommendation: The Director, OSTP, should delegate to NCO the role of sponsoring symposia where industry can meet with program officials and academia to help define the research priorities of the program.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy

 

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