In the digital age, “break glass in case of emergency” may signal a need to “send in the computer experts.” That’s why the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a report Tuesday outlining plans for a new National Strategic Computing Reserve (NSCR) to deploy emergency computer resources during national crises.

The program would assemble a group of volunteer experts from industry, government, academia, and the nonprofit sector who would be able to work with computing resource providers to provide advanced computing and data resources and services in emergencies.

OSTP’s blueprint compares the idea to the Civil Reserve Air Fleet and the Merchant Marines. The NSCR’s volunteer subject-matter experts would stand as well-trained, highly capable reserves with sufficient infrastructure to quickly mobilize essential resources such as computing, software, data, services, and expertise.

The program was inspired by the COVID-19 High-Performance Computing Consortium, which performed many of the same tasks in delivering information and resources to the scientific and engineering communities during the pandemic, including expertise pooled from government and academic sources.

In planning the program, OSTP asked a range of experts, including Hewlett-Packard, the COVID-19 HPC Consortium Executive Committee, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, how the program could be implemented.

OSTP estimates it would cost around $4 million per year to implement an NSCR by establishing a program office and an integrated cyberinfrastructure platform to support a dynamic federation of resources. In addition, the plan assumes that acquiring the necessary resources for an NSCR will cost 20 percent beyond the reserve’s eventual operating costs.