February 12, 2020
Artificial intelligence and quantum computing would be awarded increased funding under the Trump administration’s proposed $4.8 trillion budget. The Defense Department and the National Science Foundation would receive more funds for AI research, and $25 million would go towards the creation of a national “quantum Internet,” aimed at making it more difficult to hack into digital communications. The proposed funding comes at a time that China has prioritized both new technologies, and the U.S. seeks to catch up.
The New York Times reports that the Trump administration’s new budget would “increase funding for artificial intelligence research at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a research arm of the Defense Department, to $249 million from $50 million, and at the National Science Foundation to $850 million from about $500 million.”
The National Science Foundation would also use $50 million to “help train AI experts.” It also promised to “double funding for AI and quantum computing research outside the Defense Department by 2022.”
In the U.S. and China, tech companies are “racing to build a quantum computer, a new kind of machine that could be used to break the encryption that protects digital information.” China has invested heavily in this field, debuting a “dedicated quantum communication network between Beijing and Shanghai” in 2017,” after four years of planning and an $80 million investment by two Chinese provinces. It has also “tested quantum encryption techniques via satellite.”
With the proposed new U.S. budget, the Energy Department would spend $25 million to “build a network connecting its 17 national research labs, which include Los Alamos in New Mexico and Argonne outside Chicago.” The “test network” would enable researchers to “explore quantum encryption technologies with an eye toward creating a secure network across the country.”
“This is a test bed for new technologies,” said University of Chicago professor David Awschalom, who “oversees much of the university’s quantum research and would play a role in the effort at the national labs.” “We are using the power of the national labs to fuel the country.”
President Trump previously signed a 2018 law “that earmarked $1.2 billion for quantum research,” and the Energy Department recently disbursed about $625 million of that “to research labs in industry, academia and government.” “The dollars we have put into quantum information science have increased by about fivefold over the last three years,” said Energy Department undersecretary for science Paul Dabbar. Trump also inked an executive order last year to make “AI research and development a national priority.”