2009 Safety, Security and International Affairs

Cray Henry and the HPCMP Team

Provided supercomputer support that DOD scientists and engineers have used to develop improved body and vehicle armor, among many other technologies that enhanced military performance and saved billions of dollars.

The High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP) team, led by Cray Henry, created a state-of-the-art supercomputing environment to enable scientists and engineers to design and test innovative materials and weapons systems, which has saved lives and helped the nation’s war fighters.

Providing the resources to employ state-of-the-art mathematical models and computer simulations, the DOD team helped speed the development and rapid deployment of the Hellfire missile that has been used to neutralize terrorists in buildings, bunkers and caves.

The HPCMP was tapped to help the soldiers in Iraq, providing resources for complex modeling and simulations to develop new armor kits for HUMVEES that counter the rapid evolution of improvised explosive devices that were killing and wounding American soldiers.

Just a few years ago, these scenarios would not have been possible.

“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.

Ahalt has also been impressed by the team’s commitment to leveraging partnerships in a substantive way, including with academia.

“The team updated very sophisticated computer codes. They were very innovative and broke new ground in the field,” said Ahalt.

The weapons systems and protective gear are only a small part of the supercomputing agenda.

Technology advances in weather forecasting developed on HPCMP systems now allow the U.S. Navy and Air Force to provide accurate, up-to-the-minute and long-range information to ground forces anywhere in the world, helping commanders plan military operations.

Now, the DOD’s hurricane prediction models are so accurate, the National Hurricane Center uses them together with other models to predict hurricane paths.

By using the accurate weather forecasts in aircraft flight planning, DOD projects it will save $1 billion in fuel costs during the next 10 years.

On the civilian side, HPCMP resources were used to assist in the rebuilding of New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina by developing and running environmental models that provided animated simulations at an unprecedented level of detail. This enabled researchers to analyze water and wind level interactions on land areas, levees and canals, and provided key data for the levee redesign.

“I am fortunate to work with an incredibly dedicated group of people who truly believe that computing programs can change our government and the nation,” said Henry. “The team has a strong personal commitment and I am constantly motivated by their good nature and hard work on behalf of our nation.”

While the cost of operating this cutting-edge technology is not low, Henry and his team calculated in 2008 that the return on investment in areas, such as armor design and development and weather modeling, is anywhere from $6 billion to $11 billion. In other words, every dollar the HPCMP invested saved at least seven dollars for the taxpayer.

Currently, the team is working to design more efficient fuels and better body armor, and while he has already served our government for 27 years, Henry and his team aren’t going anywhere.

“Developing the technology we need is an ongoing effort—we’ll never be finished,” said Henry.