Congress Passes Bill Intended to Boost Quantum Computing

Congress passed a bill that aims to speed up the development of quantum computing in the United States. The technology is anticipated to revolutionize cybersecurity among other areas. The House approved the bill in a 348-11 vote. President Trump is expected to sign it into law, since quantum computing has been a priority of his administration. China has been focused on the technology and plans to open a laboratory in 2020. With the new bill, U.S. legislators hope to push efforts to keep up with or surpass rivals.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a recent administration study said quantum computing could “provide solutions to some of the nation’s most pressing national security concerns,” and also hold the promise of “substantial economic growth potential through … new industries and products.”

“Establishing a national quantum program is essential to maintaining our position as global leaders in science and technology,” said Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), who is chair of the Commerce Committee.

Quantum computers “harness subatomic particles to do calculations … [and] have the potential to perform complex calculations far faster even than current supercomputers.” Other applications for quantum computing include “pharmaceuticals and medicine, climate research, manufacturing and transportation.” But much of the U.S. government focus has been on the use of quantum computing for “developing new, more powerful ways of encrypting data — and cracking current encryption methods.”

According to WSJ, “the federal government already has begun studying ways of making encrypted data more resistant to hacking by quantum computers.”

With passage of the legislation, Congress establishes a National Quantum Initiative Program “to accelerate research and development over the next 10 years … [and] authorizes coordination efforts centered in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to support and promote the technology.” It also “establishes Energy Department national research centers with five-year allocations of up to $25 million per center per year.”

The Trump administration and Congress have doubled quantum funding for the Energy Department’s Office of Science to $120 million for fiscal 2019.