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Language in Defense Appropriations Bill May Allow ARSC to Retain Funding

December 8, 2010

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Language in a defense appropriation bill could retain military funding for the University of Alaska Fairbanks based Arctic Region Supercomputing Center.  The provision inserted in the legislation by Senator Mark Begich blocks the DOD from spending money to close any of the six computer facilities it contracts with. Last week UAF officials said the DOD is indicating it will not renew a research support contract that covers 80 percent of ARSC’s $12 million operating budget, a funding hit that would half the center’s 50 person staff.  Begich’s provision hinges on a divided Senate and House passing the appropriations bill as is.  UAF officials aren’t holding out a lot of hope, and ARSC Chief Scientist Greg Newby says the UAF facility has already positioned to move on.

Newby describes DOD research conducted through ARSC as non-classified, everything from oceanography to ship hull design, projects similar to non military work it’s likely moving into.  Recent grants from the National Science Foundation are already providing some alternative funding including a climate project at the Super Computing Center.  Newby says being free of DOD rules may open up doors to other deals and new partners.

Newby says supercomputing is key to many areas of scientific research and essential infrastructure if UAF wants to grow in the field.  The university is just beginning construction of a new life sciences facility, and Newby says supercomputing is integral to front line biological research.

Newby says the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center has several proposals out to agencies and private companies for work, but there’s no game changer on the horizon at this point to prevent layoffs at the UAF facility.

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