Oak Ridge Corridor’s supercomputer

Sen. Lamar Alexander

In 1942, U.S. Sen. Kenneth McKellar, who served as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for funding the government, was summoned to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s office where the president said: “Mr. Chairman, we need to hide $2 billion in the appropriations bills to win World War II.”

Sen. McKellar responded: “Well, Mr. President, I only have one question. Where in Tennessee will that $2 billion be spent?” That is how Oak Ridge got involved in the Manhattan Project, which developed the two bombs that ended the war.

Today, in what I like to call the ‘Oak Ridge Corridor,’ Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the nation’s largest energy and science lab and home to one of the largest concentrations of scientists and engineers in the country. This is why the Oak Ridge Corridor is so critical to American innovation and global competitiveness.

But we can’t continue to lead the world with our brainpower alone. We must increase federal science and energy research funding if we want to continue to develop the remarkable innovation breakthroughs Oak Ridge is known for.

As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, I have worked hard to ensure the Department of Energy’s Office of Science received four straight years of record funding, and continuing to provide federal support for science, research and innovation is one of my top priorities.

Just this week, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced plans for the laboratory to be home to the world’s fastest exascale supercomputer, known as ‘Frontier,’ which will be five times faster than today’s most powerful machines.

Supercomputers are used to solve the biggest problems in every area of science. China, Japan and the European Union all want to be first in supercomputing, but the announcement this week means that America is committed to continue to lead the world in this area. And the stakes are high because the winner has an advantage in such things as advanced manufacturing and artificial intelligence.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is already home to Summit, which is currently the world’s fastest supercomputer. As an example of the value this technology provides, one government agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has been using Summit in Oak Ridge to fight waste, fraud and abuse within their operation, which has allowed them to identify millions of dollars in fraudulent payments.

This decision to build a new exascale supercomputer in Tennessee serves as even further evidence that Oak Ridge’s brainpower and facilities are the best in the world. I’m very proud of what this area has been able to accomplish.

Leading the world in supercomputing and increasing funding for energy research will ensure our country continues to develop breakthroughs that create good paying jobs and grow our economy.