THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JACK GIBBONS, DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY AND HAZEL O'LEARY, SECRETARY OF ENERGY
The Briefing Room
MR. GIBBONS: This is an important day, I think, for the administration in recognizing and underscoring the central role of science and technology in achieving the kind of options that we want -- whether it be for national security or economic growth in the creation of jobs, protection of the environment and human health and all of the above.
Today the President will be celebrating the contributions of 13 individuals and one company, with the highest awards that he can give in science and technology, the so-called Medals of Science and the Medals of Technology, in a ceremony in the East Room.
Let me tell you about two of them. One is Ruth Patrick, from Philadelphia, who made fundamental discoveries in understanding the importance of biodiversity, which we all hear about now but was something, in a sense, she worked on before the term was coined. And the relationship of biodiversity in water systems to the health, the pollution and the human impacts on the water systems. And her fundamental work has underscored and driven a lot of the strategies in internal metal research over the past several decades. That's a Medal of Science.
Let me mention one person of the Medals of Technology. Stephanie Louise Kwolek, who is a chemist working for DuPont Company, discovered how to take liquid crystals and turn them into particular kinds of fibers called aramid fibers, which I think we all know as Kevlar which, in turn, has been used for a lot of protection. And I think that alone has saved the lives -- I believe the account these days is something like 1,300 law enforcement lives have been saved by this discovery of Stephanie Kwolek.
The President, in his address, besides honoring these people, will reiterate his abiding commitment to the support of science and technology as a public enterprise in partnership with private enterprise. He will talk about a strong scientific base as a fundamental underpinning of our move toward comprehensive test ban treaty. And he will announce, in that regard, the new super computer investment that is being made at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories in California. IBM will furnish this computer, which is hundreds of times faster than anything we have now and will be utilized for assuring the confidence in the safety and reliability of our nuclear stockpile.
At the same time it's being designed so that within about an hour, maybe two hours, it can be converted from very sensitive missions in stockpile stewardship over to fundamental science work and even things related to industrial needs, such as the calculation of the shapes of proteins and the design of new drugs and the like. So it has dual needs and is designed specifically to handle both of those kinds of needs.
And I'm delighted that Secretary O'Leary is with me, who can expand on that part of the program this afternoon. Hazel, do you want to add anything?
SECRETARY O'LEARY: Thanks, John. That's great. I'm not too breathless.
I think Jack has hit the high notes on this very exciting announcement that the President will be making formally later today. I have tried for about two and a half days now to express myself in ways that most people can understand that points out why this is such an exciting announcement, and part of the earlier strategic initiative in computing that we announced last year. And someone else has done it a lot better, so I'm going to start to steal that line.
I think the comparators are very simple. When I was just in college in the late 1950's we were beginning to see the challenge of outer space. Today, both in need of supporting our stockpile stewardship program to permit us to keep a robust nuclear stockpile without nuclear testing, we find ourselves in another challenge. And someone else has called it the challenge of cyberspace. And what we've actually done now is approached a set of very tough technical issues and asked ourselves if we cannot simulate the circumstance of nuclear testing rather than do it. And the answer is yes, and these fabulously powerful computers help us do that.
In describing how much more powerful they are than those computers in which the government has been the major investor, the way I like to express it is to go back to the Olympics -- because we all have these metaphors -- and to challenge you to think about the stadium in Atlanta where so much is happening and to use as proxy for that stadium the supercomputing device that we will get in partnership with IBM for about $93 million. That stadium, if it's comparator were this capability to compute, would be large enough to hold every citizen in the United States of America.
And the opportunity now to move our testing away from -- in the industrial complex -- away from clay models or small metal or material models to 3-D simulation is the most exciting thing that I can conceive of. And this is the benefit that flows out of our national security initiative. I've talked about this in ways that I understand because it relates to my business. When I was in the electric utility industry, we were very proud to say that we could come up with a computer design for a power plant in nine months. Well, now this can be done in a very short period of time but much more dramatically moving us from the mental concept to a 3-D design in cyberspace.
If you want to take this a step further, the automobile industry today is using supercomputing that came out of our national security program to simulate crashes of automobiles in order to make the materials therefore safer. But that's not the real issue. We want to make automobiles safe from crashes, but we really want to make people within cars safer from crashes. And that's what this equipment will do. And understand, as Jack has already indicated, that while its uses are primarily dedicated to our national security initiative, we have been told that within an hour it can be flipped over away from secure and classified work to be dedicated to the work of scientists and universities or, perhaps more importantly, collaborations involving industry and scientists as well as our laboratories.
It is part of the vision that we all had when the President told us that he believed in the certification of our weapons, laboratories, directors, that the United States could take the principled and the moral leadership to forswear nuclear testing and in so doing could we rely on science and technology.
This is the second extraordinary achievement in progress to move us into cyberspace. There will likely be other announcements before the end of this year. We're up and running, and we're up and running in a way that keeps the United States in its premier position in supercomputing that begins to meet the goals and the initiatives of the Clinton administration on a moratorium, a lasting moratorium on nuclear testing and also begins to open up science and technology in a new universe, this universe of cyberspace, to both intellectual challenge and examination, and to industrial output that helps us reduce costs and be more competitive in the 21st century.
Q Ms. O'Leary, can you give us just a little bit of nuts and bolts? Is the computer already built and ready to go? Or is this something that's going to be designed and developed and we're hoping that it's going to function?
SECRETARY O'LEARY: The computer will be ready to go by 1998. You may remember that the earlier computer in this strategic initiative will be ready in 1996. The reason I'm so certain to say it will be ready to go is that the valuable partnering with IBM, who won this competition, is that IBM had already an existing business plan that would have taken them to this new frontier in supercomputing but at much slower pace.
The advantage of the Department of Energy now partnering with IBM is we can take this quantum leap that actually moves us times 100 into the capability that IBM had already planned at a later time. And what my colleagues in the national security side of our business international labs will tell you, is that that begins to get at their issue, and now my issue, which is 10 years out, how can we continue to certify to the safety and reliability of the weapon stockpile.
And so 1998 is our target date and IBM was a natural winner because they were already on that course. We have invested to speed them up.
Q And what do you mean by "partnering"?
SECRETARY O'LEARY: I mean that they are the Department's partner, as is almost every partner with whom we enter into a contractual relationship. They will be building this equipment. They will be building it to our specifications, but we're clear that they have the capability.
Q And the Department's role is financial?
SECRETARY O'LEARY: The Department's role is financial and it is also to guide with respect to the requirements and actually indicating the performance of this computing device.
Q Can you just get a little bit into the nuclear testing aspect of it?
SECRETARY O'LEARY: Yes.
Q With other countries, some other countries have said, we have to test because we don't have the capability to really know how these weapons are aging. Is the idea, then, that either they would be able to use this very machine, or is it that they would buy their own or what -- you know, in other words, what are the international indications?
SECRETARY O'LEARY: Well, you've asked, I think, perhaps the most difficult and subtle question here, and that is how does the United States, in partnership with other of the nuclear nations, go forward to ensure that we all begin to be able to move on to certifying safety and reliability. And I will discuss this with an example.
One of the clear examples are some of our colleagues who are now asking for some of the supercomputers that now exist. Our requirements of the Department of Energy, working with all of our partners in the National Security Council, is to ascertain that everyone who wants the use of our supercomputers has peaceful uses in mind. There's also a nuclear users facility internationally that has a regime so that we can all be certain that people are using supercomputers have that purpose in mind and do not have the purpose of engaging in the development of nuclear weapons.
So we are certain that we can test the intention of our collaborators and we will move forward to begin to collaborate. The other major peg in our scientific stockpile stewardship regime, of course, is the national ignition facility. And we've been very clear to say we want to be open and bring people in. We simply have to understand their requirements.
Q Secretary O'Leary, just a quick follow-up on Jill's question. Case in point: How would you deal with France?
SECRETARY O'LEARY: Well, I think the way we've been dealing with the French is to have very detailed conversations with them, which obviously lead to a partnership, that share in this capability, but we also want to be certain that their goals are the same as ours. And we have had a set of very valuable and worthwhile discussions with the French, most of which have been reported in your papers and on your networks.
Thank you very much.