This Week's Federal Player

Cray Henry: Driving DoD's Supercomputing Enterprise

Cray Henry
Cray Henry (Sam Kittner/ )
From the Partnership for Public Service
Monday, June 22, 2009; 7:31 AM

At a nondescript office building in Lorton, Va., Cray Henry quietly but effectively manages a sprawling multi-billion dollar nationwide supercomputing enterprise of the Defense department that has advanced technology for U.S. forces and helped save lives.

Providing the resources for highly sophisticated mathematical modeling and computer simulations, Henry's High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) has helped scientists and engineers develop weapons systems, such as the Joint Strike Fighter, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and the Javelin Missile program, find novel ways to test biological agents and achieve greater energy efficiency.

"This is a place where there is still a sense of the frontier," Henry said. "There still are many things that people don't know, and in the computing arena, we have a new set of tools and a chance to answer questions that people could never before have answered."

He said his organization services scientists and computer engineers at more than 150 different locations, providing them with high-speed network communications and "unfettered but secure access" to six different supercomputer centers. The heavily secured centers, he said, hold football field-sized rooms separated by glass walls, providing computing power to develop innovative materials.

"Thanks to Cray and his team, instead of testing something in real life for defense, you can use their computer-generated models, making the tests cheaper and more effective, saving millions of dollars," said Stan Ahalt, director of the Ohio Supercomputer Center. "The team uses updated and very sophisticated computer codes. They have been very innovative and broken new ground in the field."

The supercomputing centers, for example, have spurred the development and rapid deployment of the Hellfire missile, used to target terrorists in buildings, bunkers and caves. The HPCMP also provided the environment for engineers to simulate new armor kits for HUMVEES to better protect American soldiers in Iraq.

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