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Senator Pete Domenici

Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico has served as a U.S. Senator since 1972. A central figure in the federal budget process, he is the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee and was his party's Senate Coordinator at the President's 1990 Budget Summit. As a leader in formulating government science and technology policy, he authored the original technology-transfer bill, enacted in 1989. This ground-breaking piece of legislation strengthens the relationship between the national laboratories and the private sector. He also played a key role in the drafting of the 1990 Clean Air Act. The Senator, a native New Mexican, has garnered numerous awards during his distinguished political career, including the 1988 Outstanding Performance in Congress Award from the National League of Cities, the 1989 Public Service Award from the Society for American Archeology, and the 1990 Energy Leadership Award from Americans for Energy Independence.

I have been proud to consider myself a representative of the science community during my years in the Senate, and I have been proud to count among my constituents such institutions as the national laboratories, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). So let me express, by way of opening these remarks, my profound admiration for the principles and the promise that the members of this audience embody.


You have all heard enough during these proceedings about jurisdictional disputes in Washington. You have heard how these disputes get bound up with policy decisions concerning the scope and accessibility of the supercomputer environment being developed in America—how these disputes affect whether we discuss supercomputers, per se, or just increased computing capacity of a high-sensitivity nature. But these issues—the substantive ones—are too important to see mired in turf battles, not only back in Washington but here at this conference, as well. To those of you arguing whether it's NSF versus NASA versus Department of Energy, let me suggest that we have to pull together if the optimum computing environment is to be established.

But I want to turn from the more immediate questions to a more fundamental one. And I will preface what I am about to say by emphasizing that I have no formal scientific training apart from my 1954 degree from the University of New Mexico, which prepared me to teach junior-high math and chemistry. Everything I have subsequently learned about high-performance computing I have learned by interacting informally with people like you. At least I can say I had the best teachers in the world.

It is obvious that this is the age of scientific breakthrough. There has never been anything quite like this phenomenon. We will see more breakthroughs in the next 20 to 30 years, and you know that. Computers are the reason. When you add computing capabilities to the human mind, you exponentially increase the mind's capacity to solve problems, to tease out the truth, to get to the very bottom of things. That's exciting!

So exciting, in fact, that the realization of what American science is poised to accomplish played a major role in my decision to run for the Senate again in 1990. I wanted to be in on those accomplishments. American science is a key component in the emerging primacy of American ideals of governance in a world where democracy is "breaking out" all over. Oh, what a wonderful challenge!

Of course, while the primacy of our ideals may not be contested, our commercial competitiveness most certainly is. In the years just ahead, the United States is going to be conducting business in what is already a global marketplace—trying to keep its gross national product growing predictably and steadily in the company of other nations that want to do the very same thing. That's nothing new. Since World War II, other nations have been learning from us, and some have even pulled ahead of us in everything except science. In that field, we are still the envy of the world.


I submit to you that few things are more crucial to maintaining our overall competitive edge than exploiting our lead in computing. Some members of Congress are focusing on the importance of computers and computing networks in education and academia. They have my wholehearted support. You all know of my continuing commitment to science education. But I, for one, tend to focus on the bottom line: how American business will realize the potential of computers in general and supercomputers in particular. What is it, after all, that permits us to do all the good things we do if not the strength of our economy? Unless business and industry are in on the ground floor, the dividends of supercomputing will not soon accrue in people's daily lives, where it really counts.

Let me tell you a little bit about doing science in New Mexico. Back in the early 1980s, believe it or not, a recommendation was made by a group of business leaders from all over the state, along with scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories, that we establish a network in New Mexico to tie our major laboratories, our academic institutions, and our business community together. We now have such an entity, called Technet.

We encouraged Ma Bell to accelerate putting a new cable through the state; we told them that if they didn't do it, we would. And sure enough, they decided they ought to do it. That helped. We got in three or four years ahead of time so that we could rent a piece of it.

Now, it is not a supercomputer network, but it's linking a broad base of users together, and the potential for growth in the service is enormous.

You know, everyone says that government ought to be compassionate. Yes, I too think government ought to be compassionate. I think the best way for government to be compassionate is to make sure that the American economy is growing steadily, with low inflation. That's the most compassionate activity and the most compassionate goal of government. When the economy works, between 65 and 80 per cent of the American people are taken care of day by day. They do their own thing, they have jobs, business succeeds, business makes money, it grows, it invests. That's probably government's most important function—marshaling resources to guarantee sustained productivity.

Every individual in this room and every institution represented here, as players in the proposed supercomputing network, have an opportunity to be compassionate because you have an opportunity to dramatically improve the lives of the people of this great nation. You can do it by


improving access to education, certainly. But mostly, in my opinion, you can do it by keeping your eye on the bottom line and doing whatever is necessary and realistic to help industry benefit from high-performance computing.

You all know that there are people in Congress who are attracted to supercomputers because they're high tech—they're, well, neat. The truth is, we will have succeeded in our goal of improving the lives of the American people when supercomputers are finally seen as mundane, when they're no longer high tech or neat because they have become a commonplace in the factory, in the school, and in the laboratory.

It's a great experiment on which we are embarking. To succeed, we'll have to get the federal government to work closely with the private sector, although there are some who will instantly object. I will not be one of those. I think it's good, solid synergism that is apt to produce far better results than if those entities were going at it alone. It would be a shame if we, as the world leader in this technology, could not make a marriage of government and business work to improve the lives of our people in a measurable way.

The rest of the world will not wait around to see how our experiment works out before they jump in. Our competitors understand perfectly well the kind of prize that will go to whoever wins the R&D and marketing race. The United States can take credit for inventing this technology, and we are the acknowledged leaders in it. I say the prize is ours—but that we'll lose it if we drop the ball.

We Americans have a lot to be proud of as we survey a world moving steadily toward democracy and capitalism. Our values and our vision have prevailed. Now we must ensure that the economic system the rest of the world wants to model continues vibrant, growing, and prosperous. The network contemplated by those of us gathered here, the supercomputing community, would most certainly contribute to the ongoing success of that system. I hope we're equal to the task. I know we are. So let's get on with it.


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