October 6, 2004
As many of you know, I work with supercomputing. One of our largest customers is the Department of Defense (DOD). I've spent much of today with the Chief of the Army's High Performance Computing (HPC) Division, Charlie Nietubicz, and have found out some interesting things, but more importantly he related a story that impacted all of us in the room.The media often portrays the DOD or the Federal Government as a giant money pit. However, from my experiences, they are often very strapped for money and fight to allocate it to the right places. Anyway, a while back, the comptroller for the Army approached Charlie and basically told him the soldiers in Bosnia didn't have enough food, and asked him which he thought was more important: a bigger computer or feeding soldiers. Well, Charlie replied by asking which the comptroller thought was more important: to have the technology to save hundreds or thousands of soldiers, or to make soldiers go hungry for a little bit. That was the end of the discussion.To underscore that, Charlie's office recently received a letter from a sergeant serving in Iraq. Let me take a step back first. Many of you remember that Humvees were (and still are) a target of insurgent attacks. The attacks frequently cause injuries and fatalities due to a lack of armor. The fact is, the Humvees were not built for front line combat. In a rush to protect the soldiers, the army quickly set to work designing and simulating armor kits for the Humvees, work only made possible through powerful supercomputers. Due to the computers, they were sending out kits to Iraq within some 30 days. That's a phenomenal conception to shipment time period. So back to the sergeant. His letter was addressed "To whom it may concern..." and made its way to Charlie's office. It basically said that he didn't know who to address, but to thank whomever was responsible for the kits. They just saved his life.
Posted by charr at 11:01 AM
Ah yes. Better living through High Performance Supercomputing. And don't forget about the DOE's nuclear testing simulations being performed on our clusters. How many potential down-winder lives have been saved by not performing nuclear testing in the desert? I think everyone should have a cluster.
Cameron, I don't think this post is sufficiently political. You're slipping! ;)Seriously, it's good to hear that we're seeing some sort of practical benefit from the money we spend on supercomputing.
That's cool, thanks for sharing.(By the way, on the last paragraph you forgot a word, "So back the sergeant.")